The city will look into the feasibility of building a new garage downtown that could help alleviate parking problems in the Scottsdale Arts District that gallery owners have complained about for years.
After hearing from Legacy Gallery owner Jinger Richardson and other gallery owners, Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp asked City Manager Jim Thompson to look into adding two levels of above-ground parking to the city-owned lot on 1st Avenue between Scottsdale Road and Marshall Way.
“My goal is that I want to maintain a strong working relationship with business owners everywhere in Scottsdale and that means that I talk to them about their challenges for them to remain in business,” Klapp said. “My conversations with those people in that area…has been parking and it’s been a problem for years.”
Klapp said the project would not rely on nearly $21 million in funds currently being considered for inclusion in a future bond election to purchase parking in underground lots being built by private developers for the Museum Square or Southbridge 2 projects.
Rather, she said the project should be funded by using a portion of $28 million the city will receive for selling the land for Museum Square to developer Macdonald Development Corp.
Klapp said the city is already considering investing money in properties surrounding Museum Square, including Museum of the West, Stagebrush Theater and Scottsdale Artists’ School.
She said it makes sense to invest in nearby parking as well.
She said that it is “a good time to take some of that money from the potential sale of the land for Museums Square and put it into additional parking for that area.”
The specific costs and details of the potential structure are not yet available.
Klapp said she expects the City Manager’s office to bring their findings to the Council sooner rather than later – perhaps by the next City Council meeting on March 19.
The parking issue in the Arts District is nothing new.
French Thompson, owner of French Designer Jeweler and president of the Scottsdale Gallery Association, said he has noticed a shortage of parking in the areas for over two decades.
Thompson said the two new levels of parking, if built, would not address local property owners’ concerns about the Museum Square project – namely that it could also eat away at that valuable on-street parking – but that it would help partially alleviate the existing shortage issue.
“That doesn’t address Museum Square; that would just address the issues we have now,” Thompson said.
Richardson said the expanded parking would provide more space for local business owners and employees to park in order to avoid using up on-street parking along Main Street that she would like to see reserved for customers and visitors to the area.
“If the city could take money from the Museum Square land sale and build a structure on 1st Avenue, that would be a great place for employees and business owners to park,” Thompson said.
Richardson said the existing lot is already used by some business owners and employees but that she has seen overflow employees from local eateries park in those coveted Main Street spots when the lot is full.
The city did commission a downtown parking study in 2015 that, in general, downtown had enough public and private parking to sustain existing uses.
However, that study did note that available parking may not be nearby a visitor’s destination.
The report stated that some visitors “may need to park down the street or even several blocks from their destination or in the 5th Avenue garage. Some business owners likely attribute this as a parking problem stemming from lack of supply.”
The report also noted that zones that included the Arts District had “have high utilization of on-street parking” but that the 5th Avenue garage was underutilized and that changes in parking management could alleviate some issues.
Both Richardson and Thompson expressed concerns that shoppers are not willing to walk multiple blocks to reach a specific gallery or retailer if they cannot find parking nearby and customers have taken their business elsewhere because of a lack of parking.
The issue is compounded during the high season when Cactus League fans and other visitors can take up all the on-street parking before noon, Richardson said.
That is an issue for galleries and other local businesses who tend to rely on the increased traffic in the late winter and early spring to sustain their businesses during the slow summer months.
“I had a business in north Scottsdale (with) two locations and from time to time we would look at downtown as a possible place to put another store,” Klapp said. “And every time we walked away saying there is not adequate parking.”