Could One of Saline's Parking Lots Be Converted into a Public Gathering Space?
Could the City of Saline convert one of its downtown parking lots into a public gathering place?
That’s what Saline City Council wants to examine.
In January, city council voted unanimously to pay OHM Advisors and Carlisle/Worman $57,000 for a downtown public space design proposal. Most of that money will be offset by a grant from the MEDC. Ben Harrington, Economic Development Director for the city, drafted the proposal.
Harrington said there are many justifications for dedicated public spaces, like attracting investment and placemaking.
“But it’s also something our residents and businesses have asked for over the years, very explicitly,” Harrington said.
The proposal is to investigate the current conditions with the three centrally located parking lots, discuss with the community what it wants to see, draft a design and then have a final design submittal that will have cost estimates. The city would then seek grants from the MEDC and other agencies to fund the final product.
“I’m very excited we are moving forward on this. It was discussed and outlined in the Master Plan,” Mayor Brian Marl said.
Councillors Jack Ceo and Nicole Rice expressed support for the proposal.
Not a single councilor questioned what this might do to the parking situation downtown - although that’s likely something the study will address.
Harrington’s memo to city council acknowledged that converting a parking lot into a public space will impact parking, but he said the city has a surplus of parking.
“Staff is cognizant that the creation of such a space would necessarily have an impact on parking,” Harrington wrote. He noted a 2022 parking study that showed the city has more supply for parking than demand.
Harrington suggested downtown visitors could use parking in the city hall lot and said the city would benefit from more wayfinding signs and initiatives in the city.
The city’s recently adopted master plan calls for the evaluation of locations of a public space in the downtown district.
It's worth noting that at least two public events have been moved to the parking lot hosts Oktoberfest, Summerfest and the Farmers Market. The Summer Music Series and Saline Pride are moving to the parking lot this year, according to event applications.
The Saline Post is reaching out to downtown restaurant and business owners for feedback. Saline Main Street, a private, non-profit downtown revitalization organization, spoke in favor of council supporting the idea.
In November, council heard Harrington’s proposal for paid parking meters. A source in the city told The Saline Post the initiative would not be going forward - although another city council member said council believed that issue was far from decided.
Ancillary to the discussion, Harrington said the city was working on another proposal to study increasing residential density to allow a four-story building downtown.
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