Tuesday, August 30, 2005

City of Vallejo could build garage to aid downtown renewal

August 30, 2005

Plans for parking in question
City could build garage to aid downtown renewal

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

A developer proposes to turn several downtown Vallejo parking lots into condominiums, shops and restaurants to revitalize the area. The question is, where will everyone park?

The answer lies in a 600-space parking garage the city would build in the heart of Triad Communities Inc.'s proposed project zone covering a dozen square blocks. On Monday, city staff and consultants discussed parking plans with residents, landlords and business owners in a meeting at JFK Library.

If the council OKs plans for the development project, work on parking could begin as early as next year, said John Bunch, the city's development services director. The garage, which downtown property owners would pay for through a special tax district, could take a year-and-a-half to build and is slated for a site at Marin and York streets.

"We always knew the parking was going to be the big gorilla in this project," Bunch told the audience of more than 30.

Plans call for creating angled parking. Sidewalks would be dressed up with decorative street lamps, benches and flower planters. Street corners would extend into the intersection to shorten the distance for people crossing the road.

The idea is to make a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, said Paul Barber, a consultant whose firm worked on creating the downtown plan.

"Park and walk everywhere, that's the approach," Barber said.

During development some avenues may temporarily be turned into one-way streets to accommodate angled parking on both sides. And customers used to parking next to a business may have to park farther away.

Shoppers who have to walk more may stay away, said David Fischer of Martinez, who owns several downtown properties.

"That's my biggest fear," Fischer said.

His tenants, Debbie Rojas and her husband Dan, recently opened the Georgia Street Grill restaurant. Rojas said she worries about losing business and even closing.

"The interim is the scary part," Rojas said.

Right now, more than an estimated 550 parking spaces sit empty during the day in downtown, according to a study. After the new parking garage is built and the downtown is developed, downtown should still have more than 130 surplus spaces.

Still, some are excited about the downtown being transformed into a regional attraction that includes a performing arts theater, thousands of new residents and more restaurants and stores.

"I think it will be good in the future," said Laura Wong, who owns the China Cafe on Georgia Street. But, she added, "I worry about the parking right now."

The downtown project area is roughly bordered by Sonoma Boulevard and Santa Clara Street to the east and west, and by Capitol and Maine streets to the north and south.

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