News

Parking garage financing plan crumbles

Better management of downtown parking is needed, a consultant says. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Better management of downtown parking is needed, a consultant says.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

While downtown Winslow has a parking problem, a multi-level public garage may not be the way to solve it, at least for now.

And though merchants would benefit from more parking, those benefits aren’t great enough to provide a funding source for a garage.

Those conclusions, contained in a feasibility study by consultant Anthony Gibbons, are a significant near-term setback for the proposed Town Square complex.

The project, under discussion for more than two years, calls for three levels of structured parking, some 50 units of affordable housing, and an as-yet undetermined public use on city-owned land south of the farmers’ market plaza.

City officials had hoped to finance part of the project through formation of a local improvement district (LID), charging an assessment against downtown property owners. But Gibbons’ report all but scuttles that notion.

“I’m surprised to learn of the lack of support for going forward as a local improvement district,” Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said Monday. “We’ll have to go back and start all over.”

Gibbons’ study was commissioned by the city and Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, which planned to develop the structure in tandem.

Gibbons, a real estate appraiser by profession, attempted to determine whether a parking garage would add enough value to surrounding businesses to pay for the garage through an LID.

Under that approach, properties that receive a “special benefit” from the improvement – a benefit not enjoyed by the community at large, such as an increase in the value of their property – may be taxed up to the amount of the benefit to repay the bonds sold to build the improvement.

But the total “special benefits” from the parking garage only amount to some $265,000 – a tiny fraction of the estimated $5.58 million cost of the parking garage, and only 12 percent of the cost of the 124 stalls that would be available to the public.

And according to Gibbons, the merchants are unable to shoulder the burden themselves.

“You can’t foist this on the merchants,” he said. “They don’t have the cash to pay for this as a special benefit.”

A big part of the “parking” problem, Gibbons says, is actually a perception problem – there are usually places to park in Winslow, but frequently not directly in front of businesses in what he calls the “core” of Winslow Way between Town and Country and Winslow Hardware.

“People have an extraordinary intolerance for walking any distance,” he said. “When they go to the mall, they park 500 to 600 feet away from the entrance, and walk another 400 to 500 feet to the store.

“But they won’t walk from Wyatt Way to downtown, because they don’t have a line of sight to their target.”

Because of that resistance to walking, Gibbons says that the proposed parking garage would benefit those businesses in the immediate vicinity, such as those along Madrone Lane and in the Winslow Mall, but would be of little value to parking-short businesses farther away, such as those in the Pavilion.

His report notes that few Pavilion movie-goers use the lots adjacent to City Hall, which are open to general public parking after 5 p.m.

Resource mgmt.

In the short run, Gibbons believes that better management of what he calls the “parking resource” can make an appreciable difference.

“There is no system to prescribe the best use of the parking places we have,” he said.

Gibbons would like to see employees encouraged to use parking spaces off of Winslow Way, and believes better enforcement of the time limitations – generally two hours for on-street parking – could chase some of the ferry commuters out of downtown.

Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Dwyer, who had not seen Gibbons’ study, said that if the parking garage is too expensive, then the city needs to find other short-term solutions.

Dwyer cited the need for better enforcement and more meaningful parking ordinances, echoing issues that have also been raised by the Team Winslow downtown association.

“Right now if you get a ticket at 10 a.m., you might as well leave your car there all day,” Dwyer said. “But if you got three or four tickets, then it would have some teeth.”

Dwyer said that even if the parking shortages are spotty and concentrated in only a few areas, that still poses a problem for Winslow’s vitality.

“If we want to create a downtown that is vibrant, where are people going to park?” he asked. “I believe there is a threat of losing businesses because of lack of parking.”

Kordonowy agrees that while near-term measures should be put into place now, “that does not satisfy the long-term issues. My concern is what we do seven or eight years down the line.”

In light of the Gibbons report, Kordonowy said the city needs to re-examine several points.

“Should we be looking at a different site, at different funding mechanisms or looking more strategically at things like transit, busing in downtown employees from areas outside the center?” she asked.

Kordonowy said she is willing to re-examine the present limit on ferry-terminal parking, and would consider the request of the Griffith Trust to add 200 surface parking spaces on the southeast side of Olympus Drive.

She agrees that in the long run, ferry-terminal parking should be underground, but acknowledges the fact that such parking is not a financially attractive proposition today.

“We can’t ignore the economic realities,” she said, “but if we change things we should do so in a way so as not to preclude underground parking in the future.”

The overarching issue, she said, is determining what the city’s role ought to be.

“This will require a real rethinking of how we are going to make the parking garage happen, whether the city is willing to take on the responsibility,” she said.

Dwyer cited the need for better enforcement and more meaningful parking ordinances, echoing issues that have also been raised by the Team Winslow downtown association.

“Right now if you get a ticket at 10 a.m., you might as well leave your car there all day,” Dwyer said. “But if you got three or four tickets, then it would have some teeth.”

Dwyer said that even if the parking shortages are spotty and concentrated in only a few areas, that still poses a problem for Winslow’s vitality.

“If we want to create a downtown that is vibrant, where are people going to park?” he asked. “I believe there is a threat of losing businesses because of lack of parking.”

Kordonowy agrees that while near-term measures should be put into place now, “that does not satisfy the long-term issues. My concern is what we do seven or eight years down the line.”

In light of the Gibbons report, Kordonowy said the city needs to re-examine several points.

“Should we be looking at a different site, at different funding mechanisms or looking more strategically at things like transit, busing in downtown employees from areas outside the center?” she asked.

Kordonowy said she is willing to re-examine the present limit on ferry-terminal parking, and would consider the request of the Griffith Trust to add 200 surface parking spaces on the southeast side of Olympus Drive.

She agrees that in the long run, ferry-terminal parking should be underground, but acknowledges the fact that such parking is not a financially attractive proposition today.

“We can’t ignore the economic realities,” she said, “but if we change things, we should do so in a way so as not to preclude underground parking in the future.”

The overarching issue, she said, is determining what the city’s role ought to be.

“This will require a real rethinking of how we are going to make the parking garage happen, whether the city is willing to take on the responsibility,” she said.

Community Events, April 2014

Add an Event
We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Apr 18 edition online now. Browse the archives.