In 20 Tours Of Dietz Lot, He Never
Found Fewer Than 80 Vacant Spaces
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – When Mayor Gary Herzig says there’s plenty of space in the Dietz Street parking lot to accommodate the three-story Lofts On Dietz and its 66 artist studios and apartments, he knows what he’s talking about.
“I’ve walked the lot, starting in April, probably 20 times,” he said a couple of days after defending the project at a city Planning Commission meeting against two people who said the construction would take away too much parking.
Some days, he walked the Dietz Lot in the morning; sometimes, in the afternoon. Sometimes Mondays, sometimes Saturdays, sometimes mid-week.
“The lowest number of vacant spaces I found on a weekend or during a business day was 80,” he said. “The highest number was actually one day last week – 132, at 11 a.m. The following day, 1 p.m. – 128.”
He continued, “I can’t tell you whether the summer is more or less crowded, with the students here or not here. But we do have tourists and the baseball families coming here.”
When The Lofts’ developer Ken Kearney appeared before the Planning Commission Wednesday, July 17, Michael Stolzer, who lives in the Town of Oneonta but owns rental properties in the city and operates an art gallery, said he likes the project – anywhere but the Dietz Lot.
Likewise, Web entrepreneur Mark Drnek said he loves the project, but also fears the impact a loss of parking will have on the downtown. He asked: Why not a parking deck behind The Lofts?
Herzig said a parking deck would cost $30 million, too much given today’s demand. But he looks forward to the day when the city is so busy and so prosperous that the investment would be warranted.
In an interview, Herzig agreed with Stolzer and Drnek that “some adjustments” in parking might be necessary – perhaps spaces set aside for two hours, four hours, eight hours, depending on why drivers are using the lot.
“We’re going to study what the use is,” he said. “The Chamber of Commerce is all set to work with us. We have time to analyze the need, to compare the need to the space we do have, and make sure the hours are the maximum efficiency for the space we have now.”
Some short-term spaces are needed by people running errands; all day parking is needed for people working downtown, he said.
Also, drivers are ordered to move their cars off streets onto public lots during snow emergencies; enough space would have to be found to accommodate them, he said.
The city conducted an in-depth parking study, Herzig said, which found “the city is incredibly fortunate.. At any time, we typically have 500 empty parking spaces within walking distance of the downtown. We can implement all the planned development in the DRI and have enough parking.”