Four years ago, the City of Winter Park paid a consulting firm to find more parking for its downtown. Now the city is back asking residents to take part in a Downtown Parking Summit with a new consultant to help solve the parking shortage.
They city’s tony downtown has always been a popular draw for shoppers and diners but some restaurant owners and merchants complain that a lack of parking is keeping people away, especially when large events like the Winter Park Art Sidewalk Festival draw crowds of 350,000.
Winter Park spent $19,000 on the 2013 parking study and $49,000 more to hire Orlando consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates to develop a current parking strategy. The cost difference can be attributed to a study of spaces versus a study on strategic management, said Winter Park spokesperson Clarissa Howard.
The Park Avenue corridor, which runs from Fairbanks to Swoope avenues, has approximately 1,785 weekday daytime spaces and 1,923 weekday evening/weekend spaces. The city’s 2013 parking study found a lack of 200 spaces and the city has since added 78 spaces throughout downtown.
But many retailers and residents believe there’s more of a shortage.
“Parking is such a hassle that we could be losing customers,” said Sharon Anderson, who owns Arabella women’s clothing store on Morse Avenue, which runs perpendicular to Park Avenue. “We actually had people come in yesterday who said they drove around for 20 minutes the day before then left because they couldn’t find a parking place.”
Anderson said parking is also an issue for her employees, who must obtain a permit from the city to park in one of five designated merchant areas. However, the city gave out more permits than parking places, she said.
The city did not release the number of merchant parking spaces and permits.
Winter Park allows free public parking along Park Avenue and on the fourth and fifth floors of the Park Place Garage on Canton Avenue. There’s also parking behind the Amtrak/Sunrail Station and Winter Park City Hall.
Nancy Miles has figured out the best parking can be found on side streets.
“I take my scooter because it’s easier to find a parking spot,” said Miles, a 17-year-Winter Park resident. “People who know Winter Park downtown know where the parking spots are. There’s never been a time when I’ve given up and gone home, but I park once then walk while I run my errands.”
And shoppers and diners often must watch where they park because some spaces are limited to three hours. Parking fines range from a low of $25 for going over the posted time to $55 for re-parking within 500 feet within four hours to $255 for a handicapped violation.
The public is invited share their downtown parking experiences from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. June 8th at the Downtown Parking Summit at the Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 W. Lyman Ave.