Parking concerns in downtown Hinesville mostly are an issue of perception, Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis said.
“It becomes a perception of a parking problem when store-front parking is not available,” Davis said as she discussed the city’s 2008 parking study and the new study under way.
“The 2008 parking study inventoried the total number of on-street and off-street parking spaces available in the downtown area. Then, an assessment was made of parking-space usage during a normal ... workweek. That study found that little more than half of downtown parking spaces were being used on a regular basis.”
Davis admitted the old parking study, which was completed in July 2008, did not include the new city hall and the justice center. However, even though some spaces were lost as a result of those projects, she said even more spaces were made available through the new parking lots directly behind and across the street from the justice center and across from the Hinesville Police Department.
The focus of the new study will be a 1,000-foot radius starting at the intersection of South Main Street and M.L. King Jr. Drive, she said. The old study found a total of 348 off-street spaces and 188 on-street spaces. An additional 16 spaces for handicapped parking were not included in the study.
“I think we’ve had a considerable net increase in parking spaces (since the last study),” she said. “Although these spaces may not be as convenient as store-front parking, the walking distance (from the new parking lots) is less than what you’d walk from your car to the door at the mall.”
Davis said the new study will examine parking supply, demands and occupancy. She said three factors will impact future parking conditions: planned future developments, increased building occupancy and normal growth.
One development is the completion next month of construction on the old courthouse. Davis said part of the new study will include surveying how re-occupation of that building will affect downtown parking.
“By the time we finish with the new study, we will know if there’s a deficit in parking spaces or if we need to better use the spaces we have,” she said. “Parking management would include signage directing visitors to parking areas during normal workdays and especially for special events at Bradwell Park.”
Another parking management measure being considered is enforcing time limits on designated spaces, which could include fines. She said enforcing parking limits simply has not been possible before. The need to enforce limits is there, nonetheless.
She noted that many of the store-front parking spaces surrounding Bradwell Park frequently are taken by people with business at the courthouse rather than customers at one of the restaurants and businesses along Court Street, M.L. King Jr. Drive or Commerce Street.
“As we become more successful in developing the downtown area and attracting visitors to special events downtown, there will be greater demand for parking spaces,” she said. “The model for full capacity use (of parking spaces) is 80 to 85 percent occupancy on a regular basis.”
The new parking study is expected to be completed by July.