(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte wants to create more good parking spaces downtown for the growth in visitors now and into the future.
Walker Consultants, an Indianapolis-based engineering group, has just begun studying how to improve parking in the short term and in years to come.
In a Thursday night meeting with local officials and consultants at City Hall, several citizens identified what they feel are current problems with parking and what should be done to improve parking as part of the study.
Craig Phillips, the city’s Community Development and Planning Director, said more parking is vital for businesses that have opened downtown in recent years, especially as other companies are expected to fill the empty storefronts remaining.
More convenient and safe parking away from Lincolnway is also needed for people coming for the increase in special events downtown and the other special events planned in the future, according to Phillips.
“It’s a good time to take a look at this before too much starts happening,” Phillips said.
Phillips said improving parking is also vital in attracting more new businesses downtown.
While surveying downtown last week, Walker Consultants has already determined a need for more off-street parking.
Consultants Jon Martens and John Gettings said there seems to be plenty of parking. Still, more off-street parking is an excellent option to create more parking opportunities for visitors and employees forced to move their vehicles while at work in spaces governed by a two-hour parking limit.
Martens said it’s too early to speculate what the study will recommend. Still, suggestions could vary from having more private lots converted into public parking to eliminating or reducing the number of two-hour parking spots to a parking garage. The consultants would include the pros and cons of each recommendation and cost in the study.
Martens said he expects the study to be completed and submitted to the city council sometime during the summer. But, there is a significant amount of data to work through and process before then. Ultimately, some recommendations could be pursued now or later depending on the time and cost.
Phillips said the city has already begun trying to create more off-street parking, which could require purchasing land to create parking lots and reaching agreements with landowners to use a portion of their lots for parking. In addition, the land is also being sought to construct a parking garage potentially.
Walker Consultants has worked in other communities like Valparaiso, which saw an increase in visitors after improving parking in its downtown. Martens said the key to success on some of the recommendations would be reducing heavy truck traffic downtown, so people feel safe while parking and walking around.
Construction of a four-lane highway around the downtown is being pursued, and so far, dollars from the federal government to pay a majority of the estimated $100 million costs.