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Bustling Urban Neighborhoods Create Parking Tension

A new battle is brewing at Columbus City Hall, it’s a fight over parking spaces. People who live in busy, popular neighborhoods want the city to restrict some street parking to residents. Just this week German Village residents failed to get resident parking permits. As WOSU reports, the growing parking crunch is just one side effect of living and working in a bustling urban neighborhood. “You do a lot of circling."

Solutions to parking congestion in Columbus

Randall Bowman of the City of Columbus talks to 89.7 NPR News about solutions for fixing the parking congestion problem in popular Columbus neighborhoods.
That's how Beth Menduni described her visits the Short North. The Hilliard woman has developed a strategy for finding a parking spot. "You do a lot of, kind of, stalking people to see when they’re going to leave the restaurants or go into a parking lot. Or follow them to their cars? Exactly. You’ve done that I’m sure. Yes, I have. I’m not ashamed to admit it because I love being in the Short North, but the parking is definitely an issue.â€? As homeowners restored stately Victorian Village homes, and as more and more restaurants and apartments open in the Short North, the fight for parking spaces has grown. And German Village is, well, German Village – which has always had a parking problem. Victorian and Italian Villages have seen a 75 percent population increase since 2000 – we’re talking 3,100 more people. That means more cars and those cars need a place to park. Then you add in events like ComFest and the situation only gets worse for neighbors, workers and for people like Tim Brown of Westerville, who likes to visit the short north but “not as much as [he would] like because of the parking.â€? Tim was lucky this day, he arrived early and found a meter. “I knew it was the only chance I’d have to find a place to park, and actually I got a meter which kind of surprised me," Brown said. Short North has about 600 non-restricted parking spaces – meters, non-metered spaces and lots. A new garage is under construction just off High Street, but many of its spaces are for condos next door. And plans for a boutique hotel and adjacent office building just north of The Cap will wipe out two parking lots. The office building will have a parking garage, but it may not be enough to alleviate the crunch. While Short North has some space to build parking garages, German Village does not. Alleyways used to serve as extra parking until the city put a stop to that last year. German Village Society’s Shiloh Todorov said the move put about 65 more cars back on the street. “And so that has set off some other tension around places where those cars have been displaced.â€? The change has prompted some in German Village to want to restrict some on-street parking to residents. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, nestled at the end of Kossuth Street, has a couple of small lots for its customers. But many still park on the street, and president Geoff Schmidt calls permit parking a slippery slope. “And all of a sudden the whole village becomes a permit parking area...Pretty soon that gets out, it gets around, and all of a sudden you’re not a friendly touristic place anymore," Schmidt said. For diners visiting German Village or Short North restaurants, their heroes often are valets. On this rainy evening at Haiku in the Short North, Premier Valet Parking president Ryan Gale trains a new valet. Gale has valet service in all of the city’s hotspots. While his employees are heroes to diner, they sometimes are at odds with neighbors and face abuse. If asked, Gale said he will move a car valeted in front of a house. And some residents have been receptive to that. “Other times they’re angry. I mean, we had one valet get doused with a water hose," Gale said. "And it really wasn’t a nice time to get doused with a water hose. So we try to work as cohesively as possible.â€? For all the complaints about parking, Gale said it’s the price of popularity. "If you have to park a block away in the Short North, I consider that a victory," he said. "And that’s the beauty of all this, is you’ve got culture to walk around to see, you’ve got places to enjoy...like that’s the beauty of it, you get to walk through it. You don’t just get out at the front door of the restaurant you to go to and go eat there and come back, you walk around.â€? An official tapped with trying keep everyone happy is Cleve Ricksecker. He directs the agency monitoring downtown development. He said the city’s historic neighborhoods were not built to handle two cars for every home. They were built before there were cars. That’s what makes them so attractive. “If there were an attempt made to accommodate cars it would destroy the character of the area.â€? Ricksecker said people who live in urban neighborhoods are adjusting, slowly. “People expect to drive, you know, five blocks down to go to the grocery store, or drive to High Street five blocks away, get a parking space in front of their house. These neighborhoods can’t be treated like a suburban apartment complex anymore. And people need to learn how to live in an urban space.â€? Ricksecker said there’s no clear answer for the parking issues in the historical neighborhoods. The city continues to work on it, and drivers continue to circle the block.