Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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Planning Director provides report to City Council regarding downtown parking

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At the October 18th City Council meeting, Shanna B. Saunders, Planning and Development Director for the City of Rochester, delivered a report regarding parking in the downtown area.

Saunders began her presentation by explaining that approximately 6 months ago, City Manager Blaine Cox assembled a Parking Review Group in order to assess parking needs in the downtown corridor. The group consists of members from City Council, Planning Board, Police Department, Public Works, Rochester Main Street, downtown business owners, and other downtown stakeholders.

The mission of the group, as directed by Cox, is to reach out to the community, gather information and public input, assess parking studies conducted by outside experts, and assemble a list of strategies and action items.

Additional ‘mission statement’ items include hosting open public meetings to solicit input from other stakeholders and the greater community, develop a draft list of action items and next steps with projected completion dates, complete any financial analysis needed regarding funding or revenue that any action item may need/generate, and specifically address the issues of a publicly owned multilevel parking structure.

According to a study completed in 2021, Rochester’s downtown parking inventory includes 2,571 total parking spaces. 2,261 (88%) of those spaces are off-street. 310 (12%) are on-street.

In addition, the study found that in future buildout scenarios, including close to 40,000 sf of additional commercial buildout and 180 new residential units, the existing parking capacity would suffice.

Saunders continued the presentation by listing several of the Parking Report’s potential strategies going forward, which include extending or removing time limits on individual parking spaces, metered parking on main streets, expanding wayfinding efforts, updating the parking management plan, implementing standard shared parking practices, reinvesting potential parking revenue, and exploring the need for a downtown parking garage.

“The full report expounds on each item in more detail, with examples,” said Saunders. “We went through each strategy and determined which items we’d like to follow up on and the ones that we don’t think will work in Rochester.”

In order to create a cohesive, balanced plan for the future of downtown parking, the Planning Department created an online survey to solicit public input. The flyer, distributed to multiple downtown businesses and restaurants, encourages citizens to provide information that will inform any recommendations put forth by the Parking Review Group.

Saunders says that more than 300 survey responses have been received so far. According to initial findings, 50% of responders are visiting downtown for dining, 10.83% for retail, and 11.78% for personal services such as hair salons or pet grooming. The remainder represents place of residence, place of employment, and City Hall/government.

Initial survey responses also include preferred parking choices. 176 motorists prefer on-street parking, 206 prefer parking in the Union Street parking lot, 49 prefer the City Hall parking lot, and 93 prefer the municipal parking lot across from Lilac City Grille. 35.46% say they are willing to walk up to 1 block from their vehicle to reach their destination.

Saunders completed the presentation by encouraging more residents and business owners to participate in the survey, which can be found by clicking here. She also advised residents to stay tuned for an upcoming Poster Session Open House. Dates will be announced soon.

The Parking Review Group plans to return to City Council in 2-3 months with action items based on public input and other findings.

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