If Mystic Grill is any indication, the influx of people coming to Covington for lunch and dinner will increase with the opening of the Irish Bread and Your Pie restaurants in 2016.
That means available parking spots on the Square, directly near the busy district’s businesses will become even scarcer during peak hours. In order to continue developing the Square as the entertainment district it hopes to be, the Covington Parking Authority commissioned a study, costing around $40,000 according to city officials, to address parking issues on the Square.
That parking study was presented to the Covington City Council at Monday’s council meeting.
Kimley Horn, under contract from the parking authority, conducted the study, meeting with a variety of stakeholders, property managers, business owners, the Newton County Economic Development office, local Church leaders and Main Street, as well as monitoring parking spaces in data collection on May 21 and June 3.
The parking study listed seven key findings including the need for signage; the hours of peak parking on the Square; existing but underused public parking, including the First Baptist Church’s parking deck; establishing parking time limits; and the desire of visitors and employees, both, wanting to park as close to businesses as possible.
According to the study, street parking on the Square and in the public lot north of the Square has 80 to 100 percent occupancy. But the study also showed there were 319 vacant spaces within two blocks of the Square and 142 spaces in the First Baptist Church parking during the peak hours of 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
“I would argue that within the peak hours, we have about 450 vacant spaces that are available but not where people know they can find them readily,” Fred Burchett of Kimley Horn said. “If you come through the Square you’re going to have a challenge parking.”
Burchett explained to the council that Kimley Horn recommended a phased process of improving parking needs as development continues. He advised that each phase be done with the parking monitored, and then gradually escalating through all four steps if parking exceeds 65 percent occupancy.
Phase 1 would include public parking and wayfinding signs, Phase 2 would be implementing time limited parking around the Square and side streets within a block (which is already supposed to be in place); Phase 3 would mean implementing fee-based parking around the Square and Phase 4 would mean development of additional parking southwest of the Square.
The cost estimated by Kimley Horn for the average of the minimum and maximum cost of materials would be $29,480 for Phase 1, $100,800 for Phase 2, $191,900 for Phase 3 and $3,858,180 for Phase 4.
For more on this story see Sunday’s Covington News.