Michael Connor, with Walker Parking Consulting, says parking isn’t a topic most people think about — until they need it.
That’s why the Rock Hill City Council is considering a plan now to renovate the city’s downtown parking.
Rock Hill leaders say, in the coming years, they expect increased traffic to downtown, thanks to the University Center project, which seeks to create hotel and retail space, plus an indoor sports arena. The University Center area is an extension of Knowledge Park project. The city is hoping the investment and development will serve as a bridge between the Winthrop University campus and the downtown business district.
Connor has led the city council in multiple work sessions this spring. So far, the consultants and staff have looked at options such as repairing the parking deck on Black Street, creating three new parking decks, and installing meters to bring in revenue for the upgrades.
Visitors and residents could soon pay to park close to downtown. The cost could range from $1 an hour in some areas to $30 for a monthly contract, according to the consultant’s Master Plan.
It’s hard to say when a plan will be put to a vote, according to Knowledge Park development manager David Lawrence, but he says the plan would be based on research.
“I’m looking at the next six months or so,” Lawrence said. “We need to make some decision on what the new parking system will look like. It’s driven by the parking that’s coming, and when it opens, it needs to be operating in a logical manner.”
John Gettys, chairman of the Rock Hill Sports Commission, estimates the addition of a proposed 140,000-square-foot indoor sports complex would likely attract $14 million a year in tourism dollars. The complex was approved last month. Developers have said they feel confident the sports complex would be finished in the first quarter of 2018.
The arena would be the lynchpin of the University Center area. It’s expected to bring retail shops, student housing, and at least one hotel. Leaders say, a building that could be used year-round, such as the arena, would attract hundreds of tourists to hotels and restaurants, and open the door to attract national events.
Lawrence said the new attractions have the potential to keep tourists and residents in downtown Rock Hill for long stretches of time. He said the council needs to use sound judgment in determining how the parking plan affects area restaurants, or businesses and the arena.
While busy times for some business spaces may be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. early in the week, Lawrence said, there may be less demand on the weekends when a new crowd ready to check out the arena would come.
“University Center is coming, so it would be good to move forward (soon),” said Connor. “We need to have some plan on how we’re going to manage it all.”
$4.8 million Creating a new parking deck on Black Street — rather than rehabbing the original one — could cost around $4.8 million, according to one consultant
The Rock Hill City Council will likely need to decide whether to rehabilitate — or rebuild — a parking deck on Black Street.
The 39-year-old deck is in fair shape at the moment, but is nearing the end of its anticipated design life, Connor said. He also said it would require $1.35 million in repairs over the next three years. Total anticipated costs could add up to $1.75 million.
The alternative is to build a new one, which Connor said would cost $4.8 million.
The current Master Plan calls for University Center to have three municipal structures with approximately 2,000 new spaces.
The garages would be controlled and maintained by a parking access and revenue control system (PARCS), which would include elements such as gates, ticket dispensers, sensors, and other related equipment.
“If you want to provide parking, you want to provide for maintenance,” said Connor. “It’s going to behoove you to manage that as best you can.”
I think the whole thing is the idea that the user needs to pay something toward this. Those are your prime parking spots, the seats behind home plate.
Knowlege Park development manager David Lawrence
The parking decks would see multiple groups of visitors come and go throughout the day, which would spread out the heaviest usages more evenly, Lawrence said.
The city would work with the developer to determine how much parking should be at University Center, he said. Lawrence said he believes those “who are here, day in and day out,” should determine how many spaces and decks should be appropriate.
“In a general direction,” he said, “This is where we’re headed. I think there’s some further discussion. A lot of it comes down to finding the peaks... How much do you have those conflicts? What you don’t want to do is to overbuild.”
On-street parking, such as on Hampton, Black, Main and Caldwell streets, are prime targets for most people, Connor said. He proposed that Rock Hill equip those spots with meters that would charge rates depending on how long a car is parked.
Connor said the same could be done for the Black Street garage, the City Hall lot, and the Black Street lot. Rather than a single meter for each space, Lawrence said, it could be a single meter that manages several spaces.
If approved, these meters could appear by fall 2018, according to the Master Plan.
“I think the whole thing is the idea that the user needs to pay something toward this,” said Lawrence. “Those are your prime parking spots, the seats behind home plate.”