by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, July 2016) Early in this decade, the West Side Market Tenants’ Association, with the help of neighborhood residents, looked into the possibility of building a 600 space parking garage on the Hicks parking lot located just northeast of the West Side Market. A project overview fact sheet was produced which gave examples of how the garage could work to alleviate the growing parking shortage in the area. The plan said 200 potential monthly permits (100 to employees of various businesses in the market district at $70-$90 per month and 100 sold to West Side Market Vendors for $30-$40 per month with 50-60 spaces marketed to neighborhood residents on a monthly basis would still leave 300-350 spaces for everyday general parking.
The study group recommended that Ariel International LLC put together a financing package together. Ariel International looked into possible financing of the project and came up with some recommendations. Estimates, at the time, were that the garage could be built for $11.25 million with an annual debt service of between $809,000 and $869,000 per year. The recommendations were submitted to some of the businesses along W. 25th just before two new large venues – Town Hall and Mitchell’s Ice Cream were slated to open. Area businesses were asked to sign on to the project.
West Side Market Tenants’ Association President Vince Bertonaschi says the business owners failed to endorse the proposal. Instead, along with the City of Cleveland, they pursued the current project– to restripe and reconfigure the Hicks Lot along with the West Side Market Parking lot to add another 128 parking spaces, increasing the capacity of the two lots from 498 to 626 parking spaces. When the project is complete, the City of Cleveland plans to charge for parking with some initial free time to allow short term parkers to park for free.
Bertonaschi doesn’t believe the extra 128 spaces and the parking fees will solve the parking problem. He sees continued expansion of large area businesses crowding out West Side Market shoppers who often can’t find a parking spot. He sees this as endangering the very nature of the West Side Market as a destination for people to purchase groceries. He says when former Councilman Joe Cimperman promised to “keep the market open for another 100 years, he didn’t say in what form.” Bertonaschi is concerned that, without access to close by parking for customers buying groceries, the West Side Market will lose many of its traditional food merchants and see them replaced by vendors that can sell prepared foods to people passing through on their way to restaurants and bars in the neighborhood.
The agenda, of the June 20, 2016 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, provides evidence of the efforts made by local businesses wanting to expand without adding any additional parking spaces. The owner of Town Hall proposed expansion of the existing restaurant, adding a second floor with 202 additional seats to the restaurant that currently seats 274 seats– bringing the total seating capacity to 476. The Board of Zoning Appeals agenda indicated: “The owner appeals for relief from Section 349.04 which states that additional accessory off street parking is required for the new expansion at the rate of one parking space per 4 seats; therefore, 54 spaces are required. The subject property is located in the PRO (Pedestrian Retail Overlay) and, therefore, benefits from a parking reduction of one third reduction bringing the total spaces required to 36 spaces but no spaces are proposed.”
Bertonaschi sent a letter to the Board of Zoning Appeals urging that they deny the request of Town Hall to expand without adding additional parking spaces. He noted that the expansion would “contribute more to the ‘substantial altering of the neighborhood’ and result in ‘substantial detriment’ to the merchants at the West Side Market.”
At the June 20th meeting, Ben Trimble, of the Ohio City Incorporated staff, relayed Town Hall’s request to postpone the hearing. The hearing on Town Hall has been postponed until August 22nd. The Board of Zoning Appeals will meet in Room 514 in Cleveland City Hall beginning at 9:30 a.m. on that day. Residents wishing to weigh in with their concerns about the expansion of Town Hall can attend in person or write to the Board of Zoning Appeals, City of Cleveland, 601 Lakeside Ave, Room 516, Cleveland, OH 44114. The calendar number for Town Hall’s variance request is 16-093. Letters can also be sent by email to a staff member at the Board of Zoning appeals: Elizabeth Kukla at: EKukla@city.cleveland.oh.us. More information about the Board of Zoning Appeals and criterion for opposing an appeal are available at the City Planning Commission website at: planning.city.cleveland.oh.us.