Planners in Rock Hill have spent years working to find ways to attract more people and businesses to the city’s historic core, particularly the central downtown area. Now that the realization of those efforts looks more imminent, planners need to find places to put the cars.
Downtown parking problems have been minimal for the most part over the years. The biggest crunch has involved prime spots in the center of downtown that occasionally have been monopolized by employees who work there.
But things are changing quickly. One new apartment complex in the former Main Street Woolworth building has been completed and another at the corner of Main and Dave Lyle Boulevard is going up quickly.
When both are fully occupied, those residents will need places to park. The increased foot traffic also is likely to produce more overall activity downtown, increasing the need for parking space even more.
But the biggest traffic generator is likely to be the Knowledge Park development at the site of the old Rock Hill Printing & Finishing complex. Knowledge Park plans include a centerpiece indoor sports complex, at least one hotel and a variety of shops, residential buildings and office space.
That will create a significant traffic spike, including vehicles belonging to employees working in Knowledge Park, people who live in the immediate area, including those in a new Winthrop University residential hall, and visitors to the city, especially those involved in or viewing events at the sports complex. City Council members and other Rock Hill leaders now are actively engaged in discussing the city’s parking options.
That discussion includes new parking decks in Knowledge Park and downtown, the repair or replacement of the 39-year-old deck downtown on Black Street and metered on-street parking downtown. All those ideas have merit, we think.
Some might object to installing parking meters downtown. But, as planners explain, drivers who use parking spaces need to step up and help pay expenses.
In addition, meters will help ensure turnover of prime spaces so they can be used by more people.
The big question regarding the Black Street deck is whether to fix it or tear it down and build a new one. Part of the deck collapsed and had to be rebuilt in 1983, and, ultimately, replacing it might be more economical than refurbishing a structure that might be close to the end of its useful life.
Regarding additional decks, as planners note, the issue is how many will be needed. City officials want to have adequate available parking, but too many decks could be a waste of money and valuable space.
Getting the balance right will be crucial to the success of the entire effort to bring more residents downtown, spur business and tourism in the city’s historic core and, at the same time, guard against gridlock. We’re reassured that city planners are starting to tackle this important question now before it becomes a much larger problem.