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If parking is an issue, is 7th Avenue gaining mo?

In a sign of momentum for Seventh Avenue retail, shopkeepers are starting to fuss about parking.

The city's newest and most visible effort to boost the historic railroad area — painted loops on the roadway — has drawn howls from shopkeepers who say the streetscape has reduced parking and confused motorists. The painted half-circles, called bulb-outs, have only been outlined for now. They will get more artsy.
"What the advisory committee wanted to do was look for ways to transform Seventh Avenue, to make it pedestrian friendly to encourage people to come to Seventh Avenue," City Manager John Connet said. "But instead of doing like we did on Main Street, spending a lot of capital dollars on concrete and asphalt, they thought, let's try using paint just to get people kind of used to (the idea).
"It would be a low-cost and fairly quick process to make some changes on Seventh Avenue and get people used to the idea of having narrower driveways, narrower streets."
Carson Calton, the City Tire who chairs the Seventh Avenue Advisory Committee, said the advisers all liked the idea when landscape architect Dave Hazzard showed them renderings last year. Then the concept became reality.
"When that happened, myself included, I'm a visual kind of person," Calton said. "When I visually saw it on the ground versus on a piece of paper, then all of a sudden, I went, 'oh, OK. These areas might create a problem.' That's what happened with everybody else up here, too. Once it was on the street, then everybody visualized it better."
The bulb-outs are designed to visually narrow the street, reduce the street crossing distance and add color and life. But parking is almighty, especially as more shops open.
"One of the big concerns, just like Main Street, was parking — 'We're losing parking. We can't afford to lose parking,'" Calton said.
The bulb-outs were painted at corners, to force cars to make wider turns into driveways and cross streets. In the process they took spaces.
"Legal parking spaces, they only lost one. Initially, it was three, and then they took out a crosswalk that didn't make sense and so legal parking spaces there's only one gone" that was lost, Calton said.
Legal or not, customers and shop owners were accustomed to parking closer to driveways and cross streets — and had never been ticketed for it. One council member saw what was happening and decided to pursue a new option.
"That's what spurred Steve Caraker — he was the one that came up with the idea — to go talk to the owners of a couple of these empty lots and see if they might be willing to work with us to create some off-street parking, which might help," Calton said. "Steve's done a great job and he's talked to them and it looks like some things are in the works there."
The two lots, both valued at $24,000, could be turned into city parking lots. The council authorized the city staff to pursue a possible purchase or lease.

Connet acknowledged that the bulb-outs have caused confusion. One reason is because they're not finished.
"People don't know what they are," he said. "They feel like they've lost too many parking spaces. I think they were also concerned that we were going to immediately go back with concrete and make it hard, particularly for places like the (M&M) meat market where they could not get their deliveries and would force trucks into the middle of the street."
"All we've done is put paint on the ground," he added. "As soon as the weather breaks, we're going to fill in and stencil and provide some variety and some esthetic appeal. What we're afraid is the property owners felt like we were going to go immediately back in there with concrete. That's not the case."
The more colorful loops might be more pleasing to the Seventh Avenue property owners, if they can see how they would be used.
"People that are up there every day, they see it," he said. "They already know areas that are problems and not problems. Some of it is just not wanting to see any change but I think most of it is there's some things that need to be tweaked, there's some things that are going to create problems. The beauty of this is it can be changed very easily. If a business changed down the road and it was something else, the beauty of this whole thing is it can change quickly. It's easily adaptable."