by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, August 2015) Ohio City Incorporated held a Community Meeting on July 16th to address changes to the West Side Market’s and Market District’s parking. The meeting was the third attempt to hold a meeting on the topic; two previously scheduled meetings, widely publicized in the Plain Dealer and other media, had been cancelled. The July 16th meeting was publicized largely through Ohio City’s email network and word of mouth. While a good number of people attended, the crowd did not reflect the broad regional nature of the issue at hand.
At the meeting, held at Franklin Circle Church, a presentation from City of Cleveland Director of Capital Projects Matt Spronz revealed that most of the decisions about the future of the West Side Market parking lot had already been made. Zpronz said design work on the project would be finished by mid August and the project would be placed out for bidding. He expected final bids to be in by September or October. Plans call for the project to be worked on in three phases and be completed by January of 2017.
Spronz described a project that calls for the current West Side Market Parking Lot, part of W. 24th Street and the Hicks Lot just west of W. 24th, to be combined into one large parking area. Several small parcels, now owned by Cuyahoga County would be added to the parking area as well. In total, 121 spaces would be added to the current 498 parking spaces in the two parking lots to create a new total of 619 parking spaces in the new lot. The contract calls for building a parking gate where parking patrons would receive a ticket when they entered and pay when they leave.
There will be a number of changes in landscaping including the planting of 140 additional trees, creation of a bio swale to capture rainwater and pervious pavers will be used to cut down on the flow of storm water. Spronz noted that the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer Board contributed funds for these environmental improvements.
Spronz said the part of W. 24th that remains would be moved to better line up with the landscaping. Another feature of the parking area would be a bike lane that travels through the parking lot to Bridge Avenue. The parking plans also call for 100 bicycle racks to accommodate bicycle parking.
Plans also called for dumpsters to be moved to a confined space in the northeast corner of the parking area. This plan was strongly objected to by members of St. Emeric Parish – located to the rear of the parking area. They objected to the potential odor so close to their front door, and possibility of attracting rodents.
Members St. Emeric Parish also asked about their access to the parking lot, as required by the deed restrictions placed on the portion of the lot the church sold to the City of Cleveland in 1965 for use as West Side Market parking. St. Emeric Parishioners were assured the deed restrictions would be honored and that they would have their own entrance and egress to the parking area for their church services and events.
In answer to a question as to why the changes were being made at the West Side Market parking lot, Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman said there was a constant crisis of not enough parking in the area. He said people that were not going to the West Side Market were parking in the lot. Cimperman said he had observed people parking in the lot and using it as a park-and-ride to go across the street to the rapid station.
Cimperman said to discourage this type of behavior, there would be a charge for parking in the lot. However, he said that there would be some free time. He said discussions on the amount of free time allowed before parkers would be charged talked about 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes and two hours of free time. Cimperman said Mayor Frank Jackson had not yet made a decision as to how much free time to allow before charging.
Cimperman indicated that proceeds from the parking lot would go toward paying off the $3 million the project would cost and also suggested that revenue from parking could be used to add lighting and security for those using the parking lot.
Councilman Cimperman then outlined some other initiatives to help control parking in the area. He mentioned several block club areas north of Lorain Avenue where the city is studying the possibility of creating pedestrian permit only parking areas.
Cimperman also mentioned a proposal that he would offer to the Frank Jackson Administration, to permanently close Gehring to make 70 parking spaces for West Side Market merchants and employees. Cimperman noted that employees parking there would free up a number of spaces in the lot behind the West Side Market. He said that, on an average Saturday, each space turns over seven times – so it is important to merchants to free up those spaces.
Another effort Cimperman mentioned he would pursue would be to talk with new St. Ignatius High School Principal about the possibility of using St. Ignatius High Schools parking lots on the weekends.
A new program, offered by RTA to reduce the price of RTA monthly passes (now $85 a month) to $45 per month for employees of participating businesses in the West Side Market Area, was also introduced. Cimperman said RTA has offered to match a $20 contribution per RTA pass by area businesses to help provide the discounted passes to employees of Market District businesses.
When asked to consider free parking for West Side Market shoppers during market hours, having merchants stamp tickets of shoppers, Cimperman said he did not want to pit the new businesses against the old. He stressed the importance of the new large restaurant bars as employment centers, noting one establishment that had over two hundred employees and another two establishments that each employed 150 people.
West Side Market Merchant Larry Schade of Kaufman Poultry stated that of the four different time periods mentioned for the amount of free time offered at the parking lot, 30 minutes and 60 minutes are not good for us; 90 minutes or two hours would be our preference, he said. Cimperman said the amount of free parking to be offered is still on the table, and he promised that, “West Side Market Merchants will have a place at that table.”