by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, November 2016) Residents and stakeholders in the area around the West Side Market attended a meeting at Franklin Circle Church on October 18th to discuss proposed parking rates for the West Side Market and Hicks parking lots.
Mayor Frank Jackson’s Chief of Staff Ken Silliman presented the City of Cleveland’s initial proposed parking rates for the parking lots and talked about a timeline for implementation.
Silliman said he expected the final stage of the $3.2 million parking lot refurbishing to be completed by November 20th. He said the completed parking area will have “100 plus more parking spaces than it used to have.”
Silliman said the city will not be moving immediately to paid parking, but is reviewing requests for proposals from parking equipment companies and most likely will begin paid parking at the West Side Market and Hicks lot early in the New Year. He said instead of having a parking lot company front the money for the lot improvements and get their return from revenues from the lot, the city opted to float a $3.2 million bond and purchase the parking lot control equipment itself. This he said would help keep parking rates lower.
“Our principle objective is not revenue generation, but rather to encourage turnover so that more spaces turn over more rapidly, “said Silliman. He said the increased turnover should help West Side Market merchants’ customers to find parking spaces.
Silliman then presented the parking rate structure proposed for the West Side Market and Hicks lots – one rate structure for daytime parkers and one for evening parkers. The daytime rate would be in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. During that time period the first 60 minutes would be free, with a charge of $1 per hour after the first hour. The maximum charge would be $10.00. The evening parking rate would be in effect after 6 p.m. The cost proposed would be $1 for the first hour and $2 for each hour after that. There would be a maximum charge of $10.00 per evening. Silliman said there would also be a limited number of monthly parking spaces available – probably about 50 spaces.
Silliman initially said revenues from the parking lots would be dedicated to improvements at the West Side Market. He corrected himself when asked if some new agreement had been reached with the holders of bonds that financed downtown parking garages. At a previous meeting, Silliman had said revenues from the West Side Market lot would be dedicated to paying off the bonds and only revenue from the Hicks lot would go to West Side Market improvements. Silliman said this was still the case. However, he did not know how much was still owned on the downtown parking garages or when the bonds would mature.
A number of West 25th Street merchants complained about the cost of parking. One merchant said his business, with 50 employees moved to Market Square from downtown to take advantage of free parking at the West Side Market parking lot. He said his company didn’t have employees that can afford to pay $50 per week for parking. He called for more low cost monthly spaces for W. 25th Street merchants.
Silliman responded that the more dedicated spaces offered, the less spaces will be available for what we are trying to do in the first place. Silliman realized that the demand for the 50 reserved spaces at $50 per month would be more than the number of spaces offered. He said it is something we would have to work through.
West Side Market Tenants Association President Vince Bertonaschi asked what it would cost for stand owners at the West Side Market to park. He worried about how increased parking fees would affect the viability of merchants.
Silliman said the 50 monthly spots were a matter of balance – nobody gets exactly what they want. The idea is to “balance monthly parkers vs. spaces right next to the market for people to come in and go out.” He noted that right now “all kinds of people are simply poaching there because we don’t charge them.”
Bertonaschi asked about permanently closing Gehring, (now closed on Saturdays and Sundays), to provide parking for West Side Market merchants. Silliman said that would be a question for Traffic Engineering.
A Riverview resident complained about people that were not residents or visitors at Riverview taking parking spaces at Riverview Towers parking lot. Silliman said he hoped that would be less of a problem once there are increased parking spaces available in the new Market Parking lot. He also suggested some kind of permit parking system enforced by Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority security.
When asked about activating existing parking meters in the area to charge for parking on Saturday and Sundays, Silliman said “City Council would have to change a codified ordinance to make that happen.” Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack said the proposal was on the table. He said City Council would wait until the parking lot opens and weigh what they want to do.
Sam McNulty, owner of Market Garden, presented a petition from W. 25th Street merchants calling for the evening parking rate to be the same as the daytime parking rate. Silliman said in response to the petition, that is “not where we are right now. It does become a revenue issue. The costs are more in the evening that in the daytime.”
A neighborhood resident said she is a fourth generation West Side Market shopper and does 80% of her food shopping at the West Side Market. She talked about the difficulty of competing with employees and customers of local businesses for parking at the West Side Market parking lot. She said, “By the time I get out of my car, I’m ready to pull my hair out.” She suggested that employees of local businesses take the bus or pay for parking. She said the City of Cleveland shouldn’t be subsidizing these local businesses. She said the area businesses are packed with customers that don’t live in the city. She felt that people going out for expensive dinners could afford to pay $2 per hour for parking. “You make money – you should not make me pay for your customers’ parking, “she said to the W. 25th Street Merchants offering the proposal for reduced evening rates.
The resident then suggested that West Side Market customers be allowed to get their ticket stamped when making a purchase at the Market and park for free. She also said of the West Side Market merchants, “Vendors should not have to pay to park.”
A W. 25th Street merchant agreed that his customers could afford to pay for parking. He said he was worried about employees being able to afford parking. He said merchants and employees pay taxes in Cleveland and are also shoppers at the West Side Market.
Market Garden’s owner Sam McNulty was also concerned about employee parking. He said he had 200 employees. One third work during the day and two thirds in the evening.
Silliman suggested that W. 25th Street merchants get together to discuss how to make a fair arrangement where nobody gets everything. He warned “We didn’t build the Market lot to take 250 spaces and reserve them for employee parking.”
There was some discussion about renting the fifty monthly spaces more than once – in segmented time frames — so spaces wouldn’t be sitting empty.
It was also suggested that the parking equipment purchased by the City of Cleveland be easy to use with a phone, credit card or cash. Silliman replied that “simplicity is absolutely where we are at. We are not going to invest in a dysfunctional system,” he promised