City tours proposals for increased downtown parking

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

February 7, 2007

The Hood River City Council will soon review plans to add about 100 more parking spaces to the downtown business corridor.

All three sets of conceptual designs also include some type of new commercial and/or residential development.

“The thing that I am excited about is that we have three firms with a vested interest in Hood River because they are also located here,” said Bob Francis, city manager.

On Feb. 12, the elected body will have 20-minute presentations by: Naito, Meyer and Irving; Fischer Development; and Pickhardt Dickinson Development LLC. The forum begins at 6 p.m. in the municipal courtroom and also includes a brief question and answer period.

Francis also noted that each of the parties vying to alleviate the parking challenge focused on a different city property. He said the council could open the door for the city to work with all of the contenders instead of just selecting one idea, or devise a fourth alternative that goes in another direction altogether.

The following plans have been brought forward by the local firms:

* Fischer Development is asking to erect a small boutique hotel on the west side of the city’s Cascade Avenue parking lot across from the post office. Forty-four parking spaces would be provided on site and the company would help the city seek out another 56 spaces, possibly on land owned by the Mt. Hood Railroad.

* Naito, Meyer and Irving are asking for new commercial/residential development on the city’s State Street lot between Front and First streets. The firm anticipates that construction along the hillside would create 100 new parking spaces on that parcel.

* Pickhardt Dickinson Development, owner of a building adjacent to the city’s administrative parking lot, also wants more commercial and residential opportunities. Its suggestion is to utilize the city’s lot, across from the courthouse, for 51 spaces and seek another 49 spaces through agreements with neighboring landowners.

Francis said last fall the council decided to scout out all of the available options. That move followed a parking study that highlighted the need to alleviate congestion, especially during the tourist season.

The council immediately adopted some of consultant Rick Williams’ ideas to provide a short-term remedy.

For example, the city limited the number of monthly off-street permits that could be used by one business or individual. And the number of on-street employee parking permits was restricted along the south side of State Street, on Sixth Street between Sherman and Cascade avenues, and between Oak and Columbia streets along Seventh Street.

In addition, commercial developers are now required to create 1.2 parking spaces for every 12,000 square feet of construction. If site plans make that impossible, they can pay into a special fund for a public parking structure.

Efforts were also made to keep people from parking all day just outside of the downtown blocks, areas within easy walking distance. Francis said Williams believed that, if more of these spaces were metered, it would increase the turnover.

So, parking meters were installed along the entire length of Sixth Street. Meters with four-hour parking limits were also installed along the north side of Oak Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.

The existing one-hour non-metered time zones located on Oak Street between Fifth and Seventh streets were converted to three-hour meters.

Francis said the new parking recommendations will be scrutinized to see if they blend well with the “unique character” of downtown. Discussion will also center on the overall economic benefits of each proposal and the level of financial risk each pose to the city.

“Council will have a choice of not one but multiple projects,” he said.

Francis said no decision is expected to be made at the Feb. 12 meeting. He said all of the data collected will be studied by staff and brought back to the council table before a planning process is initiated.

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