Saline City Council voted 7-0 to fund an $8,500 study of the parking situation in downtown Saline. Although the issue has been a hot button issue for years, Saline City Council hasn’t funded a study of downtown parking since 2002.
Rich & Associates Parking Consultants will conduct the study for no more than $8,500. Two other firms bid for the project, bidding $25,900 and $33,000.
Last summer, Former Saline Main Street Director Riley Hollenbaugh and Mac’s Acadian Seafood Shack Walter MacNeil presented their parking study and a series of recommendations to council. The recommendations included reducing the free, public four-hour parking to two-hour parking. They also recommended heavy enforcement. Council seemed receptive to the short-term and long-term recommendations at that work meeting. But upon learning the cost of enforcement, council’s enthusiasm cooled. By October, support for further study of the issue had waned.
Jill Durnen, president of Saline Main Street, and Holli Andrews, Executive Director of Saline Main Street, both spoke to city council in support of the study. Durnen said Saline Main Street would assist the city any way it could during the study. Durnen said
"We are in full support of the parking study," Durnen said.
Councillor Christen Mitchell explained why she now supported a study. She said while she found a lot of useful data in the 2002 parking study, the makeup of downtown has changed.
“There are so many restaurants now,” Mitchell said, noting that one of them, Smokehouse 52, had yet to open.
Mitchell asked Rich & Associates planner David Burr if parking counts would take place at times when restaurants are busiest. Burr said the firm would measure during peak restaurant hours.
Burr also mollified Councillors Janet Dillon and Dean Girbach by suggesting that a parking structure was not likely to be recommended for downtown Saline. Dillon’s comments suggested she felt someone might be foisting a parking structure on the city.
“In your initial letter there was extensive discussion about a parking structure. In reading it, it almost felt like that was a coached from you, that it was being encouraged,” Dillon said.
Burr disagreed. He said that part of the request for proposal included looking at a parking structure. He guessed that one of the reasons his firm’s bid was lower was because the other firms were including a potential design for a parking structure.
“Parking structures are not cheap buildings. You’re looking at about $15,000 a space for construction cost,” Burr told council. “So our feeling is, let’s look at the parking needs as they exist, as what they will look like in the future, and look at what solutions we have before we get to that parking structure,” Burr said. “If that is something down the road that is the best solution, then so be it. But that’s not even on our radar.”
Girbach, council’s longest-serving member, said he struggled with the idea of approving another parking study. Girbach said he was supportive of this study if they weren’t considering a structure.
“I’ve been very adamant that we can’t afford a parking structure at this point,” Girbach said.
Girbach also received assurances that the study will look at the impact of residential growth in downtown Saline. Beside the new apartments atop Smokehouse 52, there are apartments slated for 147 W. Michigan Ave.
“I am concerned with the potential apartments going downtown and we will not have sufficient parking for the customers coming into town,” Girbach said.
Girbach also said he hoped the new study might result in reconfigured parking lots to create more spaces.
The parking study was set to begin as early as April 16, which concerned Councillors Mitchell and Heidi McClelland. Smokehouse 52 is supposed to open April 9. The restaurant owners have experienced several setbacks and delays. Mitchell and McClelland said they hoped the study would be delayed if the Smokehouse 52 opening is pushed back again.
City Manager Todd Campbell noted that Main Street’s parking study last year was delayed several times as they waited for the restaurant to open.
“So yes, (April 16 is the date) in the RFP, but we discussed this specifically in the interviews. They agreed it was very logical that we should wait until Smokehouse 52 is up and running a little awhile,” Campbell said.
But, on the other hand, at some point, Campbell said, the city must move forward with a parking study.
The study will include:
- An analysis of existing and future parking demand.
- An assessment of Cost and potential revenues associated with downtown parking.
- A signage assessment.
- Stakeholder engagement.
- Parking management strategies.
- Development of solutions and future parking recommendations.