Downtown parking meeting

STEVE RAMES, city engineer, presents the boundaries of the upcoming study on downtown parking. The study will be used to help develop the city’s master plan for downtown parking.

Norfolk City Engineer Steve Rames laid out the city’s plans for the future of downtown parking and took questions and feedback on the subject.

The city is working to develop a master plan for downtown parking, Rames said, and an important part of this is getting public input.

“As we start to structure that plan, it’s important have a little bit of feedback from the community so we know where some of your concerns are and some of the things you’d like to see accomplished as a part of the plan,” he said.

Before the plan can be developed, the city plans to conduct a three-part study, Rames said.

This study will begin by looking at the existing conditions of downtown parking. This will examine how parking lots are being utilized, supply and demand and traffic counts, Rames said.

The next step will be to look at how parking downtown is managed and what is and isn’t working, Rames said at Thursday’s meeting at the Norfolk Public Library.

Finally, the study will determine how the downtown is being redeveloped and what that might look like for the next 20 to 30 years, Rames said.

Conducting the study will probably be a two-year process, beginning in the next fiscal year, Rames said. Afterward, the city will use the findings from the study to develop a parking master plan.

“I think it’s important we take the time we need,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re identifying the issues around parking.”

The study cost will probably be between $125,000 to $150,000, Rames said.

There have been discussions about parking in the downtown going on for years. Rames said he hopes to break the cycle with this study, though.

“(Downtown parking) has been a very long conversation,” Rames said. “My desire is, through a study and through a plan, to really change the dynamics of this conversation around parking.”

Around 20 people attended the event and Rames answered questions and took ideas from them after his presentation.

One man asked about the possibility of a parking garage in the downtown.

“I think that we have certainly had conversations around parking garages over the last two or three years. I think that is going to be one of the resources that has to be considered as we go forward,” Rames said. “There’s only so much space, and at some point you have to go vertical.”

Rames said he thought the meeting went well.

“I think it went good,” he said. “Probably the most important thing was the number of people who showed up to listen and participate. ... From the comments, I take away their support for the study.”

Mayor Josh Moenning also attended.

“I was pleased by the turnout. Certainly there’s interest,” Moenning said. “I’m glad people are engaging in the conversation because public input is going to be very important.”

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