Those Eastwood people are at it again

There’s nothing that gets an Eastwood person more hoppin’ mad than a threat to the always-on-the-brink James Street business district. Similarly, there’s always much rejoicing when something – anything – goes right there. We’ve fought to keep gas stations from popping up all over the place. We’ve lived through the years of the Walgreens battles, which ended up securing Eastwood’s fame for protecting its overlay district guidelines. We’ve expressed deep, deep concern about what might happen to the James and Midler intersection. And we’ve also celebrated the successes: excellent streetscape improvements, the renovation of the Palace Theater, the facade improvements at Pomco, the continued success of the Burger Joint and our two independent book stores, Books End and Books and Memories.

Now, oddly enough, there’s a threat coming from the mother ship itself, City Hall, and Eastwood residents and business people have responded with what I believe is a first: an online petition (and I’m not the one who created it!). The threat comes in the form of an increase in the aggressive enforcement of parking rules, made all the more onerous by the installation of parking machines. These machines are confusing to some, difficult to use for others, and, during a winter like this one, sometimes impossible to get at. And that’s just for starters. As it turns out, Eastwood is not like, say, downtown Manhattan, or downtown Syracuse for that matter, where there’s enough density to put parking spots at a premium. In fact, Eastwood is surrounded by businesses where parking is free – in Shop City, along Teall Ave and Erie Blvd, in East Syracuse, even at the Eastwood Plaza. It’s no wonder people think that, if parking might cause them to risk a $35 fine, it just makes more sense to completely avoid doing business in Eastwood.

I have heard from several James Street business owners who have said that those parking meters chase business away. One of our most dedicated business people, the owner of Books and Memories, is concerned that his business will fail if the machines aren’t removed. After all our hard work making Walgreens conform to guidelines, it is greatly disquieting to see the city punish businesses on James – the kind we want there, the kind that attract people into Eastwood like Books and Memories does. Walgreens was allowed to lay down a sea of asphalt at the gateway of our neighborhood, but the businesses that were already there on James Street are made to suffer. Where is the logic in this?

If it made sense to have meters there, you’d see James Street packed with parked cars all the time. But the meters have driven away those people who would have come here, so now whatever revenue might have been obtained from them has dried up. The city loses, our struggling businesses lose, and the property values of the residents necessarily start to drop as James Street teeters once again at the brink.

I’ve been thrilled with the transparency and responsiveness of the current administration. This makes it all the more astounding that our business district is not getting the tender loving care that it needs. Instead, it’s been roped into some kind of blanket “solution” to the fiscal nightmare the city faces. Making life difficult for businesses doesn’t solve a thing.  If you put business out of business with parking meters that don’t even collect quarters any more, you have created a lose-lose situation.

Please, let’s sell those machines to Manhattan. They need ’em a lot more than we do. Let’s keep these businesses on the tax rolls. Let’s keep our home values and assessments up. The city cannot afford to let tumbleweed go rolling through our business district.

To learn more about this issue and to sign a petition to pull the parking machines, please go to this site: Eastwood Renaissance Association

Lone car that dared to park gets ticket. $35 goes into city coffers. Business loses yet another hard-won customer for good.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

3 thoughts on “Those Eastwood people are at it again”

  1. Interestingly enough, having grown up in Eastwood and now living in Sarasota, FL which also has a “walkable” downtown retail district, there is another thing these “walkable” areas have in common – on street parking dilemmas.

    The city fathers here, as changes occur in the city commission with almost every election, vacillate on the parking meter issue. This has been going on now for more than 20 years.

    They install parking meters in the downtown Main Street retail area, at a great expense to taxpayers(some of whom are the retailers, which includes all sorts of retail shops, cafes, restaurants, etc.). Then after retailers make enough complaints and prove that their business has dropped off significantly as a result of the meters and strict enforcement, and by showing the reduction in sales tax revenues that far outpace the parking revenues, the meters are removed and businesses rebound.

    This is only for the following administration to believe that meters are a great source of revenue for the city, forgetting about (or due to their newness to the city government and not knowing) the impact on sales tax revenues and the impact on businesses, and up go the meters again (and not the old ones, new more expensive ones) at another great cost to the taxpayers. And again, down go the businesses and sales tax revenues – and the cycle continues to this day.

    Perhaps a lesson to be learned there, ya think ??

  2. Frank, you’re a highly experienced real estate developer, so I’m guessing you’ve seen this sort of thing happen in other cities besides Sarasota. Got any other examples?

  3. There have been quite a few down here – Bradenton, Venice, St Petersburg, Clearwater, Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita Springs, Tarpon Springs to mention a few. These downtown areas are all “walkable” in that the storefronts are about 6’ to 15’ back from the curb with all sidewalk filling the setback and have “on street” parking in front of the shops/offices with additional off-street parking behind the buildings or parking garages. The businesses in these districts are heavily dependent on foot traffic for their survival, both during and after tourist season.

    Most have abandoned meters and gone with 2 hour parking signs only and with some 30 minute spots. Sarasota (which includes a really popular tourist shopping destination – St. Armand’s Circle which has mostly “high-end” shops) for a time was doing close enforcement of these times with “meter maids” walking up and down the street marking tires matching a mark on the pavement and would come back in precisely 2 hours and write tickets to those who were “over-time” at $25/whack.

    Lots of complaints were made, both by business people and residents and tourists alike, so now it is very loosely enforced and businesses are thriving. St. Armand’s parking was extended to 3 hours also. The police now spend their time strictly enforcing the speed limits (15 to 25 mph in these areas) and “yields to pedestrians in marked crosswalks” – which is a good thing and what they should have been doing all along.

    On street parking was also a criteria when doing the planning of some of the large PUD’s I developed in Houston for the “walkable” retail cores in the communities – and yes, some of that was being done back in the 80’s.

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