Roswell hears strategies to fix downtown parking problems

Elizabeth Way at Canton Street is in the heart of historic downtown Roswell. (Ben Brasch/AJC)
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Elizabeth Way at Canton Street is in the heart of historic downtown Roswell. (Ben Brasch/AJC)

A consultant shared a plan Monday to potentially alleviate downtown Roswell parking woes.

Joel Mann, of the engineering consulting firm Stantec, advised City Council during a Monday meeting. The firm was hired through the Downtown Development Authority and conducted a parking study of the Canton Street area from Woodstock Street to Hill Street at City Hall.

Frequent visitors to the historic Canton Street district who were asked about the ease of finding available parking said they regularly circle city blocks hunting for spaces.

Only 30% of downtown Roswell’s 3,000 parking spaces are public parking, a study shows. The other 70% are lots privately owned by businesses and leased to the city for part-time public use.

Downtown business owners from offices to restaurant and retail establishments, as well as residents and visitors, weighed in on the study.

“For somebody not familiar here, (parking) can be kind of challenging,” Mann said. “You can see where there can be some perception of not enough parking, or parking’s not easy or intuitive.”

The transportation planner said only 57% of downtown parking is regularly used by visitors because most are unaware of where parking is located or don’t have a desire to walk from, say, City Hall over to the heart of Canton Street at Magnolia.

Sally Johnson, former owner of The Chandlery gift shop on Canton, lives in the district and says visitors to downtown Roswell often park on her residential street.

“Roswell has been trying to fix the parking problem for 20 years,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

An inventory of parking lots and spaces showed there are 120 parking lots of all sizes scattered throughout downtown Roswell charging various prices, and open at different times, Mann said.

Mann offered a two-pronged strategy to improve parking. Instead of building a parking garage with 500 spaces, he suggests working with businesses that have underutilized lots to add 50 public parking spaces per year over the next decade.

Mann said a gradual approach to adding parking space is more beneficial than building a garage were spaces would likely only be filled during peak hours.

He also advised officials to create a master plan for downtown developers that includes a parking strategy and attempts to predict market changes.

Mayor Lori Henry said Stantec’s study is a good starting point but only the first of more conversations on the issue.

Councilman Mike Palermo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wants to move forward in fixing downtown Roswell’s parking problems.

“My issue is too often a study is provided and the city doesn’t do anything with it,” Palermo said. “My hope is we take it seriously and take things in the right direction.”