Sunday, April 24, 2011

No More "Parking," Please!

Years ago, as a student at the UO, I wrote a paper on the growth of a local auto dealer and their process of demolishing dozens of buildings for new car lots in downtown Medford.  In my always tongue and cheek style, that paper was titled “There’s Plenty of Parking in Downtown.”  In the years since the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, at the behest of local merchants, have taken up that mantra and built two parking structures and several surface lots that collectively occupy four or five full city blocks.  That doing so reduces the tax base (which pays the increment in the renewal district) is fodder for some other post.

Yet still, there are those in downtown Medford who are convinced that it is lack of parking, and lack of parking alone, that causes stress for local merchants and business.  I think that is backward.  Having a parking “problem” is not demonstrated by a prospective customer having to drive a block or two out of their way to find an available space.  A parking problem is evidenced by having too much parking, and too little need.  Extrapolated out to the absurd, lots of available parking (be it asphalt or of the other variety) almost by definition means there is no commercial draw, no reason to go to the area and park your car, because there isn’t anything there you want to experience. THAT is parking problem.

Here are four views taken a 5:00 last evening, Saturday, on 6th street, right in front of the proposed restoration of the Holly Theatre.  One of the TWO parked cars is mine.   I’m not seeing a big issue.(If you click on the photos to enlarge them I don't think you'll see any issue either)

On the other side of public investment, Medford has a plethora of parks, Alba Park, Vogel Park and just across Bear Creek, Hawthorne Park.  On Friday Lithia Motors broke ground on the Commons project, which will include two full blocks of public park (even more land taken off the tax rolls, but again that is another post).  I have long felt that while the Lithia HQ will be a fine addition to downtown, the inclusion of two more parks is a mistake.  At least, as I understand it, the City and Lithia have stepped back from building yet another parking structure as a part of the Commons.Thank goodness.
Downtown Medford is blessed with a surprising number of fine restaurants-Porters, Elements, Four Daughters, Habaneros and many more.  It has a viable performing arts center, the Craterian, and now there is the opportunity for the restored Holly and now a small community theatre to be located in a long-vacant warehouse.  The Carnegie Library is to be restored for public meetings and gatherings and, at the other end of Main Street, there's talk of relocating a historic home to Hawthorne Park for use as a another community center/museum/gallery  Those sorts of uses, offering a huge increase in night-time activity in downtown, not only support local restaurants and merchants, but may actually create enough demand that new visitors will take advantage of all of the parking the city already has. 


  1. The City of Bozeman just received the results of a parking study, which they commissioned in order to dispel the urban myths about the lack of parking downtown. The result? There are over 5,000 parking spaces within two blocks of Main Street; some on-street, some in surface lots and some in the parking garage built in 2008. All are free for the first two hours. The study evaluated the length of stay of each vehicle in each parking lot. Some lots averaged 45 minutes, some averaged 1 hour 55 minutes.

    The conclusion that everyone came to? There is plenty of parking downtown. In fact, in this community of 35,000, we have AN ABUNDANCE of parking downtown. Maybe too much (shock!).

    More info available:

  2. Good for Bozeman, Courtney. I'd like to think that the parking bugaboo is finally waning in downtowns, but I think Bozeman is the exception, rather than the rule. Most cities I work in view any new development with skepticism based upon potential impact on parking.

  3. I chuckle at the pictures - worth a thousand words, right? Great post.