DAVIDSON – Downtown Davidson has a surplus of 482 parking spaces, but many of those spaces go unused because people don’t want to park a block or two away and walk, consultants told the town board Tuesday night, March 22.
To better use the spaces available near businesses on Main and South streets, officials with Rich & Associates recommend:
• The town and business owners work to get their employees to park in lots a block or more away from Main Street to free up space for customers and visitors. The consultants suggested the town negotiate with Davidson College for use of some of its lots that are not used during the day.
• Convert all-day parking spaces to a two-hour time limit along South Street; Chairman Blake Lane; Davidson-Concord Road up to around Faculty Drive; Main Street between Davidson-Concord Road and Delburg Street; and Lorimer Road.
• Consistently enforce the two-hour parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at least five days a week. The consultants suggested starting with a warning, or “courtesy,” ticket and then following with parking fines.
The consultants did not, however, recommend adding meters to downtown parking. One of the consultants told commissioners that other nearby towns do not have metered parking, and if the town added meters to on-street parking, officials would also have to start a system of permit parking on nearby off-street lots.
When they studied parking trends last October, the consultants found that 90 percent of visitors stayed within the two-hour limit. A traffic engineer who worked alongside the parking consultants made separate recommendations to improve downtown traffic. The engineer suggested:
• Connecting Potts and Sloan streets to divert up to 25 percent of traffic around Main Street through downtown.
• Adding a 50-foot left-turn lane going southbound on Main Street at Davidson-Concord Road. The tapering turn lane could accommodate as many as three vehicles and would reduce the backups on Main Street, caused when just one car tries to turn left.
To add the turn lane, the town would have to eliminate five parking spaces on the east side of Main Street, Economic Development Manager Kris Krider said. The change would not take any spaces in front of businesses on the west side of Main.
Krider also told commissioners that he and the consultants learned during their study that the N.C. Department of Transportation has money available to update signal systems, and if the town board agrees to add the left turn, state officials are ready to install a new signal system that would improve traffic flow through downtown.
• Adding an additional through-lane west bound on Griffith Street to accommodate the growing volume of traffic taking Griffith to Interstate 77.
• Eventually adding traffic signals at Jackson and Griffith streets on the north end of downtown and at Jackson and Main streets on the south end. Krider said the engineer took into account that the town will want to put more emphasis on parking on Jackson, thus increasing traffic.
The parking study found a total of 1,930 parking spaces in the downtown area, which for the study’s purposes encompassed a block or two from Main Street in both directions, except the Davidson College campus, and extending further east on Davidson-Concord Road.
Of those, 75 percent of the spaces – or 1,226 – are privately owned, and the consultants recommended the town increase publicly controlled parking spaces to 50 percent. The consultants project the surplus pool of parking spaces will drop from 482 now to 164 in five years and then to only 19 spaces in a decade.
The consultants also recommended:
• To make downtown more pedestrian friendly, the town should eliminate right turns on red at Main Street and Davidson-Concord Road.
• To promote more bicycle commuting, the town should add more bicycle racks, bicycle lockers for storing valuables and a bicycle shelter near one of the town’s parking lots.
Davidson East rezoning on hold
In a surprise move, Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice recommended Tuesday that the town board delay any action on the staff’s recommended rezoning of the former Davidson East property on the north side of N.C. 73 between Ramah Church and McAuley roads.
Over the objections of Community One Bank, which acquired the 130-acre site through foreclosure, the town’s staff had recommended rezoning the land from residential to employment campus, hoping to attract employers who need office or light-industrial space. The bank and its consultants have said such “employment campus” zoning won’t work at that site.
Economic Development Manager Kris Krider has secured a grant from Duke Energy to the town to hire a consultant to devise a master plan for the area. Brice said the town and consultant will work with the bank on the plan.
Commissioners approved Brice’s recommendation.