Solutions needed for downtown parking

To the Editor:

Whoa! Who saw that coming? Troy City Council nixed a corner stone of the Downtown-Riverfront Strategic Development Plan by saying “No!” to funding a pedestrian bridge over the Great Miami River. The MKSK plan cost the Troy community over $142,000. Granted, the solutions offered were a mishmash of ideas from other MKSK projects but the plan did highlight areas of needed improvement in the downtown and riverfront. The pedestrian bridge was a vital link in MKSK’s plan to improve downtown parking. My family came to Troy in 1968. My father, as manager of the J. C. Penney store, was soon asked to join a committee of merchants and city leaders to discover ways to improve the downtown. Ideas to improve downtown parking were identified. Solutions and the high costs were considered. Nothing was done.

What to do? For over 50 years, various plans to improve downtown parking have been purchased and debated, with little action taken. There are two approaches. Since there is little vacant land in downtown Troy, either buildings must be torn down and the lots paved or a parking garage must be built. The City has taken the first approach with the $400,000 parking lot construction on South Walnut Street. Unfortunately with this approach, business and residential spaces disappear as parking is improved. The esthetics and growth potential of downtown Troy is gradually destroyed.

Would a parking garage solve some of the problems with parking downtown? The recently released Woolpert Study identified a parking garage as a viable long term solution. The best location downtown is the current parking lots along West Water Street. Mostly owned by Miami County, the lots hold about 130 parking spaces. Can the county and city work together to construct a parking garage adding additional spaces? At what cost? The City of Dublin, Ohio is currently building a parking garage at a cost of $25,000 per space. Using this number as a guide, a parking garage in downtown Troy would cost about as much as the nixed pedestrian bridge. How to raise the funds? We learned from Operation 2020 that an increase in the city income tax of .25 percent would raise about $25 million over 10 years. Should the city income tax rate be raised for five years to pay for the city’s share of the garage? Are other funding options available? Is the Troy community going to debate downtown parking for the next 50 years and waste more community resources on consultants and plans or should Troy bite the bullet and build a downtown parking garage now?

— Jeff Schilling