Winter Park makes parking progress

Winter Parking is working on solving its parking problem in time for the holiday rush.

Winter Parking is working on solving its parking problem in time for the holiday rush.

Tim Freed

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Winter Park city staff freed up 29 public parking spaces outside of City Hall earlier this month in an effort to bring additional foot traffic to Park Avenue, hoping to give local businesses a boost during the crucial holiday season.

The new three-hour parking spaces were originally for city employees, but were converted following the City Commission’s recent talks about the city’s lack of parking downtown.

Winter Park City Commissioners supported the parking change when the idea was presented to them during their meeting on Dec. 9, realizing that 29 parking spots meant at least 29 more customers shopping on Park Avenue.

“I think we need to do everything we can do to make it easier for our merchants, for our residents and for our guests to enjoy Winter Park,” Commissioner Steven Leary said.

“We should try to take care of it from a holiday perspective, but we also need to be looking much more long-term.”

The City Commission approved the creation of 78 spaces during their Nov. 11 meeting, giving staff the go-ahead to put 73 spaces in place of the public works building and restripe 75 feet of road along New York Avenue to create five spaces.

City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper came up with another quick solution idea in November to convert more city staff parking to public parking. The Swoope Water Treatment Plant parking lot and the Blake Yard, both near downtown, could be turned into city staff parking lots, freeing up more room for public parking along the Avenue, she said.

But that idea hit a roadblock last week when Public Works Director Troy Attaway told the City Commission that the parking lots wouldn’t be ready in time for the holidays. Both lots are difficult to find and access from Park Avenue and New York Avenue, he said, and studies still need to be conducted on how to secure these lots and make them safer for pedestrians.

City staff won’t be able to come back with findings until February, Attaway said.

“I think we’ve gotten as many [parking spaces] as we’re going to get for this holiday season,” Mayor Ken Bradley said. “We didn’t get into this problem overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”

But Bradley remained optimistic, explaining that the city’s parking woes can be seen as a good thing.

“It’s much better to have a parking problem and do something about it than to not have a parking problem because nobody goes down there anymore,” Bradley said. “This is a problem that started years ago when city assets were turned into other city assets, like a parking lot becoming a park.”

“Now we’re working on solutions to fix it.”

A solution to Winter Park’s downtown parking problem wouldn’t only benefit merchants, Leary said.

“It’s not just for the merchants, it’s for the residents too, because if people are constantly circling and looking for a spot, it’s additional traffic on our roads,” Leary said.

“I want residents and guests to come down and know where to park.”