Young Avenue parking deck plan gains momentum

Architect's rendering of proposed parking deck. Courtesy Structured Parking Solutions.

Representatives from Pensacola, Fla.-based Structured Parking Solutions pitched preliminary plans for a city-funded, three-level parking deck to a group of about 50 residents April 9 at the Cooper-Young Community Association office.

The plan was met with a mixture of praise and concern from neighbors.

The proposed deck, with room for somewhere between 150 and 250 vehicles depending on the final design, and possible ground-floor commercial space, is planned for a strip of land facing Young Avenue between Meda and Blythe streets, which is now occupied by a vacant commercial building and two surface parking lots.

The community association’s board of directors has not taken an official stance on the parking deck. “We are happy to have an open dialogue and feedback between residents, local businesses and Structured Parking Solutions concerning design, needs and questions,” Executive Director Kristan Huntley said.

Parking pressure

“This might be our best shot to fix the parking in Cooper-Young,” said Charlie Ryan, a Cooper-Young real estate owner who is spearheading the project with the Cooper-Young Business Association.

The group has floated plans for a parking deck somewhere in Cooper-Young since 2010 to alleviate congestion surrounding the busy commercial corridor, but the current plan is the first one far enough along to be presented to the public. If the plan can get support from the neighborhood, it will be presented to city authorities in a request for public funding in the near future.

The restaurants and shops in Cooper-Young attract between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors per week, plus 1,154 employees, said Tamara Cook, executive director of the Cooper-Young Business Association. But the commercial core around Cooper Street between Elzey Street and Walker Avenue only has 483 parking spaces in a mixture of on-street parking and private lots. Restaurants have relied on valet services that park cars in surface lots several blocks away.

“Obviously, with 483 spaces, that doesn’t even take care of our employees, much less people coming in,” Cook said. “We’re having a big crunch, especially the restaurants.”

The deck could deter drivers from parking on residential side streets and might attract tenants to fill more than 20 vacant commercial spaces that sit empty largely because of a lack of parking, Cook said.

While the cost estimate for construction has not been finalized, Cook said the structure would cost between $3 million and $4 million, an amount the business association hopes will come from the city’s budget. No private money would be used.

Parking on the deck would be free and the deck could be maintained by a city parking authority and funded by a retail space on the ground floor of the structure, Cook said. Those details have not been finalized.

As planned, the deck would stand about 25 feet high with a tower at the corner of about 35 feet high. A vacant commercial building on the site — where a martial arts studio is moving in on a month-to-month basis — and an adjacent house would be demolished and several large trees would be removed. Ryan owns the major parcels along Young that would sit under the deck.

Neighbors react

At the April 9 public meeting, several residents praised the look of the structure, which would be designed by Memphis architecture firm LRK to resemble a row of storefronts and blend with the neighborhood’s architecture. Others questioned whether there was a need for it.

Meda Street resident Dan Spector, whose house would face the side of the deck, said he appreciated its design but worried that the deck would only be fully used on weekends and said the neighborhood should first explore other surface parking solutions before building a permanent structure. “I can’t justify this monster,” he said.

Rev. Cheryl Cornish, pastor at nearby First Congregational Church, said the group had not fully explored an option that would use her church’s existing surface lot. She said the proposed deck looked like a “standard downtown parking garage,” while she sought an option that would create more greenspace.

Greg Darden, a representative with Structured Parking Solutions, responded that by building vertically, the deck could occupy a smaller footprint, which would be a greener option than surface parking. Responding to concerns about bright lighting, Darden said his company had worked in cities with strict lighting ordinances, and that architects could come up with a lighting array that would not disturb neighbors.

If the deck is not successful, Darden said, there would be no way to retrofit it for other uses. Darden stressed that the plans presented were a preliminary draft and that the design could change based on feedback received at the meeting.

When asked to respond by show of hands at the April 9 presentation, a small number of participants said they were opposed to the plan, while a roughly equal number said they favored it. Most people responded that they needed more information before making a decision.

By David Royer

— Greg Williams (@GregWillams84) April 10, 2013

 

View map of proposed site

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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