Downtown development could exacerbate parking problems

The above illustration shows the proposed housing development to be built on Center Street in Provo. Residents worry the development will make parking problems worse. (McKay Christensen)

Parking issues are nothing new in Provo, but residents fear a proposed six-story residential and retail development in the downtown area will make the problem worse.

During a July 19 Board of Adjustments meeting, board members reviewed an appeal claiming the proposed development on the northeast corner of Center Street and 100 East in Provo violated several city codes.

While the applicant of the appeal was mainly concerned about how the developer’s plans would affect his property, residents showed up to voice their concerns about the development’s possible consequences on Provo’s parking problem.

The city is requiring the project to have 141 parking units to serve the 136 residential units that will be in the building. The project’s developer, McKay Christensen, believes they will have more than adequate parking.

Christensen said not only will they fulfill the 141 stall requirements but they also plan on including six two by two stalls and 24 motorcycle stalls, bringing their total parking up to 171 residential parking spaces.

The city has also required the project provide a minimum of 37 retail parking spaces. According to Christensen, they are in the process of approving 15 spaces on the street and negotiating with Wells Fargo for 57 spaces.

The Wells Fargo parking structure is about a block and a half away, a distance some say could cause problems. Provo resident Jeanne Lines was less than thrilled with the idea of placing parking stalls that far from the development.

“Are you really going to walk a block and a half in the snow, even to go to a restaurant or something?” Lines said. “People don’t do it.”

Lines foresees people taking up the already limited street parking rather than going to the assigned parking stalls. She believes the main culprit of this problem is the city, which she says has a pattern of approving projects that don’t have sufficient parking.

“I am so frustrated about the limited parking,” Lines said. “We have fought and fought about this area not having enough parking and this is adding to the problem.”

Lines, who has lived in Provo for about 30 years, said the parking problem is only getting worse.

“The city needs to step up and say ‘No, we need to have more parking,’” Lines said. “They say we need a parking guru and all this stuff, but they don’t listen to them. They don’t listen to the neighborhoods.”

Christensen believes the problem isn’t the city, but a lack of understanding on the residents’ part.

“Things are changing,” Christensen said. “Downtown Provo is becoming a place where people ‘come to’ again. Provo is going through a little bit of a learning curve. We have a lot of structured parking facilities where there is available parking. It’s just educating the public and getting the public used to and recognizing that there’s parking available.”

Christensen said he plans to help people understand this by making sure customers are made aware of where they need to park. He says this process may include a valet service.

Some residents believe Christensen has already fallen short in communicating with them. David Keller, who lives about two blocks from the proposed project, said he was concerned that the project had never been reviewed or presented to his neighborhood.

“While this may not be required, that helps developers identify unforeseen problems and ways to mitigate those problems. It’s very regrettable that this project has gotten this far along without that kind of input from the neighbors,” Keller said.

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