ISSUE & DEBATE
Editor’s Note: Following a sometimes heated Oneonta Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 16, which focused on whether the Lofts on Dietz, 66 proposed units of artists’ lofts and housing, will use too much of the Dietz Street parking lot, this exchange appeared on Facebook earlier this week:
►from ALAN CLEINMAN, president, Cleinman Performance Partners, Oneonta
Fellow citizens of Oneonta:
I feel compelled to challenge the notion that the need for parking on Dietz Street should be the reason to stop the progressive Art Space project.
Oneonta needs these types of projects to provide economic anchoring in an era of retail disruption. We cannot hope to compete by attracting retail without developments that encourage residing in our downtown. It’s that simple.
We are blessed to have acres of parking adjacent to our downtown. Having spent my life traveling, I know first-hand that the majority of communities are not so blessed.
But to fail to develop our downtown for fear of the loss of parking is, in a word, ludicrous.
Parking is not now a problem nor will it likely be if the Art Space project is built. That said, if parking does become a problem, we have the land (remaining Dietz Street lot) to build another downtown garage. Four or more stories of new downtown parking is not only possible, but is the antidote to all parking concerns. In the same space that currently houses 100 spaces, we could have 400-600.
Let’s support this important project and not stand in the way of progress, especially when the solution to the loss of parking can so readily be resolved.
►From JODY SHULER
In my town I hear this all the time. We can’t attract new businesses without parking spaces. They want street parking for people who are too lazy to walk. Yet we currently have business owners and employees taking the street parking now. Parking is always an issue in a metropolitan area. Just build the retail and residential spaces. The parking will sort itself out. Make the area so desirable that people will want to come and do what’s necessary to get there!!
►From MARK DRNEK
With all respect, I agree that this is potentially an important project – and one for which I could normally be counted upon to champion – but I disagree that the issue of its impact on parking is less important.
The positive effect of the building and its projected tenancy on downtown is one that can be argued, but the stress of its imposition on the shopping district and the surrounding neighborhood is inarguable.
Hundreds of spaces removed from the city’s most easily accessible, and most strategically located lot will drive shoppers to other options, and overnight parking to the already overcrowded side streets.
Add the expectation that second and third floors on Main Street will have new occupancy – and with it, increased demand for parking – to the planned decrease in the parking availabilities in the reimagined parking garage, and we court disaster for our retail district and the quality of life in the side street neighborhoods of the City, especially in the Eighth Ward.
With proper planning, and creative mitigation of the impact that comes with any construction, we can build new and upgrade old, to address the needs of our community as we work together for the best possible future.
Progress cannot result from stopping investment in our community. Such investors and investments are few and far between. Here we have investors willing to take on huge risk and invest $million$ to deliver a very worthy project that brings both residents and visitors to our challenged downtown while helping to build our arts community, a very logical lynchpin of our economic future.
The majority of resistance to this worthy project stems from the potential loss of single-level parking. This potential expense could readily be resolved by adding parking levels, moving cars up but not out!
This further investment can be made IF the perceived (not proven) loss of parking spaces actually results in a parking challenge. Further, the investment can be supported by the new, sorely needed, tax dollars that the Art Space project will deliver.
Every project has its benefits and costs. In this case, it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to identify a rather simple solution to a perceived resulting “expense.”
Please focus on removing obstacles to progress, not on creating them.
Each dollar a community invests in the arts generates approximately $9 for the local community according to Americans for the Arts economic impact calculator. Parking is a matter the can be remedied by planning but before planning there needs to be a vision.
Al, as someone with an almost-masters in urban affairs and a lot of years writing about it, I can say you hit the nail on the head.
Downtowns, in a city of any size, thrive when people find reasons to live in or near them or remain in them after traditional work hours. The idea that people will not walk a couple of blocks to something they want is false. Most people who go to a mall or a Walmart actually park further from the store than they would downtown. They do not realize it because of “line of sight.”
As for me, never have I driven through a town and said, “What a cool parking lot! Let’s stop!” I hope you prevail.