With new apartment buildings going up, downtown parking could get problematic

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The Union Street parking lot is one of several that are located in the downtown, but more will surely be needed once planned apartment complexes come on line. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER - The Downtown Parking Review Group, a City Manager's self-directed workgroup, is hosting a Public Input Open House on Wednesday to discuss parking issues in the city.

According to Senior Planner Ryan O'Conner, the Workgroup has been asked to identify a series of action items to consider as City leadership looks to update parking regulations and institute a permit parking program in the downtown district, stating "with the growth and development we're seeing Downtown, parking is now becoming a premium amenity."

The public input forum will run from 6-8 pm, at the Rochester Performance & Arts Center at 32 North Main St.

O'Connor says the Parking Review Group is exploring all possible solutions, including expanding and upgrading existing public parking lots, instituting parking kiosks, and building a parking garage.

Economic Development Director Michael Scala supports the initiative, stating that "an expansion of parking availability" is what his department is seeking for the future of the area.

"Recent housing development has added dozens of new apartments to the downtown," said Scala. "A wave of new residents is good for business and vitality, as they are likely to support local commerce. However, additional residents increases the need for parking."

With all options on the table, Planning Director Shanna B. Saunders says now is the time for Rochester citizens to weigh in. In August, the Workgroup released a survey, soliciting public input regarding the future of downtown parking. The survey includes questions to the effect of "Would you be willing to pay for parking?" and "How far are you willing to walk to get to your destination?"

"We want to hear from residents, business owners, and visitors frequenting the downtown," said Saunders. "The survey is available to take online, however, we hope that folks will attend the Open House and meet the members of the Parking Review Group. The input provided to us will certainly inform our conversations as we move forward."

For additional information and general inquiries, call the Planning and Development Department at (603) 335-1338.

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