As more businesses and residents move into downtown Redmond, city staff are working on plans to expand parking in the area to accommodate the growth.
Erika Vandenbrande, an economic development manager for the City of Redmond, was part of a team that presented to Mayor John Marchione and City Council during Tuesday’s study session, updating them on the status of the downtown parking program.
The program is divided into three different projects: on-street parking, public-private off-street parking and building a surface lot for public parking.
EXPANDING ON-STREET PARKING
The first project city staff are working on is expanding the time-limited parking around downtown.
The initial program for two-hour parking and on-street enforcement began in January 2010. Vandenbrande said the goal was to encourage parking turnover downtown. She explained that the main reason for this was because businesses were approaching the city with concerns that customers were having difficulty finding convenient parking because downtown workers, transit center commuters and others were using the nearby spots for long-term parking.
Time-limited parking has helped to mitigate this problem, she said.
“Multiple people can use the same space to access the area,” Vandenbrande said.
Downtown Redmond has more than 300 parking spaces with a two-hour limit, which include spaces on the newly opened extension of 161st Avenue Northeast between Redmond Way and Cleveland Street. The current spaces are within the two-hour downtown parking boundaries of Northeast 90th Street to the north, 164th Avenue Northeast to the east, Cleveland Street and Redmond Way to the south and 154th Avenue Northeast to the west.
The expansion proposal would extend the boundaries to include Northeast 165th Avenue between Northeast 83rd and Northeast 85th streets as well as the portion of 161st Avenue Northeast between Cleveland Street and Bear Creek Parkway once it opens in the next two months. These additions would bring the number of time-limited spaces in downtown to 345.
Council member and planning and public works committee chair Kim Allen said the council supports this portion of the downtown parking program because since it began, the issue of long-term parkers taking up spots has largely disappeared.
“(The program has) been really successful,” she said.
Vandenbrande said she and her team would like to see the City Council at the Oct. 6 meeting put an ordinance put in place expand the parking enforcement boundaries.
ADDING PAID OFF-STREET PARKING
While the additional parking spaces will add convenience and accessibility to downtown Redmond, Vandenbrande said sometimes, people need to spend more than two hours in the area. For these situations people can purchase monthly permits for long-term parking downtown, which apply to specific areas within downtown. Permits are $50 per month.
But for out-of-town visitors or people in town just for the day, a monthly permit is not a viable option. So for this, Vandenbrande said they are proposing the city partner with private businesses to provide shared, paid off-street parking.
She said downtown business owners have recognized the need for parking and some are willing to offer their businesses’ private lots for long-term parking to paying drivers.
“The idea is not to add private parking lots,” Vandenbrande said.
She said working with private businesses is also beneficial for the city because “they have the best knowledge of where customers want to have access.”
Allen added that drivers who park in a shared lot and patronize that specific business would be able to get their parking validated and not have to pay.
She also said the city would initially try this project as a pilot program, beginning with a few businesses on a volunteer basis. She said this way, if the shared lots work, the city can expand to more lots; if they don’t, the city can discontinue the program.
Allen said the council supported looking into shared lots some more. No vote or action has taken place, but she said five out of the seven council members gave the project a thumbs up.
ACCELERATED PUBLIC PARKING
The final portion of the downtown parking program is building a downtown parking lot that will be at Bear Creek Parkway and Leary Way, which is estimated to cost $700,000.
The specific size of the parking lot, which is currently a construction staging site filled with materials and equipment, has not been determined. Nor has the decision whether to have the lot be paid or free, Vandenbrande said.
She said the city currently has accumulated funding through 2016, which would put construction beginning in 2017. But with the growth downtown, she said they are proposing to accelerate the process to get things started as soon as 2013.
“There’s just a lot of activity happening downtown,” Vandenbrande said about the need for the lot now.
The city currently has $550,000 set aside in capital improvement funds for the project and Vandenbrande said they are looking at ways to close the funding gap to have the surface lot constructed sooner.
One of these ways would be to coordinate with other construction projects happening or scheduled to happen in the area at the same time such as the downtown storm water project and the Redmond Central Connector. Vandenbrande said this would help close the funding gap because construction equipment and materials would already be onsite and there would be no need to bring them in again at a future date.
“These are efficiencies that can be achieved by having the different projects coordinate with each other,” she said.
Another way to close the funding gap for the downtown parking lot would be to use $119,000 in funds the City of Redmond received when King County Metro leased the parking lot on 160th Avenue Northeast, south of Northeast 90th Street.
Allen said while the council supports accelerating the parking lot’s process, they don’t support using the Metro funds.
“Those funds are dedicated to restoring that parking lot someday,” she said.
Allen explained that the space was once a sculpture park that was converted into a parking lot when the City Hall parking garage was being built and they needed somewhere for city employees to park in the meantime. Once the garage was complete, Allen said Metro approached them about leasing the lot for a few years while the Redmond Transit Center garage was being built.
Allen said the city agreed, promising citizens they would use the money to restore the lot back to some sort of green space.
Council asked city staff to look into other funding sources to close the $119,000 gap for the new parking lot and report back to council members in six months, according to Council president Richard Cole.
Vandenbrande said things are too early in the planning stage to ask for any action from the council in regard to the downtown lot as well as the shared paid lots. She said right now city staff are just developing the projects and seeing how they can improve the downtown parking situation.
“We all acknowledge that we need more parking in downtown,” Cole said.