One of the primary goals of Rock Hill city planners in developing the city’s historic downtown core has been to attract residents who will live downtown. Thus it makes sense that the city will designate a number of parking spaces at its lot on East White Street for residential parking.
But we hope planners also are thinking long-term in regard to downtown parking needs for everyone affected. Now is the time to make plans to expand surface parking and to consider a new nearby parking garage.
The residential parking spaces, the first the city has designated as such, will be meant to serve the people living in the apartment building under construction at 139 E. Main Street. The 40 parking spaces will become available to residents once the project is completed.
Some flexibility will be built in to the agreement, which is expected to remain in place for 20 years. Under the terms of the plan approved by the City Council last week, marked spaces will be closed to general parking between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. weekdays so they will be convenient to apartment residents toting groceries or bringing children home. And those spaces will be open exclusively to apartment residents on the weekends.
But during the week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the spaces will be open to the public. That way, they can be used by customers for downtown stores and restaurants or by employees working downtown.
Basically, this appears to be a reasonable plan. Convenient parking is essential to attracting residential development downtown.
But several business owners questioned city officials as to whether parking downtown is adequate to attract new businesses as well. They fear too many reserved spaces could interfere with daily business customers and employees.
David Lawrence, the city’s Knowledge Park development manager, noted at one point in the meeting that “on the weekends, we think it will be fine, because much of the businesses there are closed on weekends.” It would be dismaying if city planners believed that a high proportion of the city’s downtown businesses will be closed on the weekend for the next 20 years.
In most successful cities, the downtowns are most active on the weekends, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. In Rock Hill, those will be times when, under the current plan, the fewest number of public parking spaces will be available.
We suspect that planners have at least begun to think about future parking needs. However, we urge them to think big and try to get ahead of any surge in development that could clog the available parking space.
Skeptics might laugh at the prospect of a Rock Hill downtown where cars have to drive around the block for several minutes looking for an open parking space. But those days could be coming sooner than many expect, and we hope the city will be ready.
We hope city planners are looking well down the road in planning adequate parking for the future in downtown Rock Hill.