As the Rome City Commission prepares for a final vote, June 10, on the latest round of changes to the way parking is managed in downtown Rome, both public and private leaders are still trying to figure out the best way to address the issue.
Ira Levy, who has played a key role in the renaissance of downtown Rome after renovating the Forrest Place, Hawthorn Suites Hotel, the 400 Broad building and is currently completing a mixed use residential and retail development The Lofts at Third and Broad, said the issue is as a simple as the economics of running a restaurant.
“What’s the happy medium for turnover of parking?” Levy asked, likening the scenario to a restaurateur who probably would not be happy with someone who comes in for a doughnut and cup of coffee in the morning and sits there talking with his buddies for three hours, taking up a table that could be used for another customer.
Levy was among a number of leaders who met privately with City Manager Sammy Rich and Downtown Development Director Amanda Carter last week to discuss the ongoing concerns. Also in on that meeting were DDA Chairman Bob Blumberg, Chamber of Commerce board Chairwoman Elaine Abercrombie who owns a Broad Street business, Harry Brock and Jay Shell, both downtown business and property owners.
Carter said the group that met with herself and Rich was pretty much the same handful of folks who have been at virtually all of the public meetings regarding parking over the past two years, but that the session was an opportunity for direct face-to-face discussions about seemingly parallel tracts that are fueling a controversy.
Rich characterized the discussion as one of trying to figure out where the community was on the issues.
“We came out of the last City Commission meeting with a new order that we weren’t working on,” Rich said.
At their May 20 meeting, the commission opted to extend the downtown parking limit from a cumulative two hours to a cumulative three hours, and cut the hours of enforcement back from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. That’s the change slated for a final vote June 10.
“One of the things that became clear during the meeting with that group was that there was a whole lot of differing opinions and views,” Rich said of last week’s meeting.
While the city, the DDA and parking consultants have been working openly to develop a solution to the parking problem, which Levy said he believes originated with the fact that a lot of employees and business owners themselves were parking on Broad well excess of the two-hour daily limit, a number of business and property owners have also been working on different suggestions. Rich said further evidence of that is the fact that after the meeting last week broke up, Levy started to make plans for another survey of downtown business and property owners while over the weekend, Jay Shell put out his own survey on social media.
Specifics of the survey Levy plans to distribute have not been determined yet, but when it was delivered the plan was to ask each business and property owner to read it and sign it, acknowledging that they had seen and been given the opportunity to participate in the survey.
Levy said he believes that use of the license plate reader technology data that is garnered over the course of the next six months will be critical to whatever the final parking management plan looks like.
“How do we start to turn Broad Street positive again. We want a positive atmosphere,” Levy said.