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Parking space is Castle Rock's final frontier

Town seeks to address concerns of downtown businesses

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Tammy Crosier and her husband have run their CD and record shop Bogey's West in downtown Castle Rock for 30 years. To be specific, they've had three locations in that time span, all on the same block — they've occupied their current spot near Third and Wilcox Street for roughly seven years.

In the last three decades, Crosier said, she's enjoyed the growth of Castle Rock — calling it good for business — and building relationships with new and regular customers.

There's plenty of positive things about working in the downtown area, she said, but there's also been one consistent drawback.

“The lack of parking, street parking for our customers, it's a constant complaint that we have,” she said. “This has been an ongoing, never-ending problem downtown.”

Although the town's growth was good for sales, she said, it also brought more traffic and made worse a problem with limited downtown parking. Some customers have told Crosier they chose not to visit her shop altogether when they couldn't find a space, she said.

“It's infuriating because we're losing business,” she said. “And Castle Rock itself is losing the tax revenue.”

Hoping for a 'culture shift'

Castle Rock Town Councilmember Jason Bower, who represents the downtown as part of his district but is also a downtown business owner, agreed that parking is an issue in the area.

Bower named factors other than town growth as contributing to the issue. Part of the problem, he said, stems from downtown business owners and employees parking in spaces nearest their place of work for the duration of the business day.

That's despite many of those spaces having a two-hour time limit, although the town hasn't strongly enforced that in the past, officials said.

All-day parking is available on the first floor of two downtown parking garages and five parking lots in addition to all-day street parking, as shown on a town map available at CRgov.com. The all-day parking shown is generally, although not exclusively, located on the outskirts of the downtown area.

Bower hopes for a “culture shift” in which the downtown business community will begin abiding by time limits, even if that means walking farther to work, to free up space for visitors and customers. Enforcing parking will help spur that on, he said.

“I feel sorry for the merchants and the employees,” Crosier said, explaining Bogey's West has reserved spaces for its staff but she knows not all her neighbors in the business community are so lucky. “Parking is so limited downtown I'm afraid that a lot of employees that work downtown park on the street from 9 until 5, Monday through Friday.”

First steps to solutions

To encourage people to follow time limits, the town began taking a stricter approach to issuing tickets this year by hiring a community service officer, who among several other responsibilities, helps monitor downtown parking.

Bower said since March 1, the officer issued 174 parking tickets and warnings. Last year, the town wrote 143 tickets downtown in total.

The community service officer, Allen Hanners, said he's received positive feedback from the business community about those efforts. Crosier said her customers are reporting more parking availability since Hanners started.

“They've noticed a difference, that customers are finding easier access to parking because people are moving,” Hanners said.

Whether it's a downtown employee or someone stationed in a coffee shop for a long time, Hanners hopes his presence will remind people to move their vehicles once the two hours is up, or to find an all-day spot if they plan to stay downtown for longer.

As Bowers stated, Hanners also understands cracking down on parking limits means a culture shift. People aren't used to it being regularly enforced. So, he's been willing to issue warnings, initially, as people learn the town is paying more attention to downtown parking.

Before creating the new position, Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley said his traffic officers would try to monitor parking but were frequently called away on more pressing issues. Those officers' main role involves issuing speeding tickets and investigating accidents, he said. The agency brought on Hanners in part to relieve traffic officers from the task of enforcing parking.

“I think that Allen's position is really going to be a benefit to downtown in providing more consistent parking enforcement,” Cauley said.

More to come

Other solutions to the downtown parking problem may be on the horizon. The Town of Castle Rock has been researching additional ways to remedy the situation.

One staff suggestion is to begin requiring developers provide parking with new residential and commercial development downtown. Staff will likely recommend to council a requirement of one parking spot for each residential unit built downtown, and for council to require parking with each new commercial development.

Town code does not currently require parking with downtown developments.

If approved, those requirements would be in addition to staff's recent reconfiguring of downtown parking, which followed the redesign of Festival Park and the installment of a roundabout and created 18 new spots.

Transportation Planner Tom Reiff said by converting some parallel parking on Wilcox and Perry Streets to angled parking they increased the amount of spaces without making major changes to the roadway.

“Just changing the paint on the pavement,” he said. “We were looking to maximize the number of parking.”

A changing downtown

Future development may also diversify parking options in time, Bower said.

Last year, a developer hoping to bring a condominium and retail development downtown also pitched the idea of incorporating public parking into the project. The development, called Festival Park Commons, would be partially located where the town-owned public parking lot behind town hall now sits. Town legal staff have been researching the idea since then, Bower said.

A preliminary application for the project shows in addition to proposing 132 condos and 22,000 square feet of retail space, the project would add 250 parking spaces to what's available at the site now, for a total of 344 public parking spaces. More private parking for residents of the condominiums is also included in the proposal.

The changing landscape in the downtown area — through projects like the Festival Park redesign and the Riverwalk development —  all affect the parking issue.

“When you have a vibrant downtown,” Cauley said, “you have more people in the area.”

Project owners touted the Riverwalk as a potential economic catalyst for the area. The Riverwalk is a $60 million development bringing apartments, office space and retail to the heart of downtown. Some downtown business owners said upon the project's approval they welcomed the project, hopeful it would boost business by bringing more people to the area.

And although Crosier agreed, the project also resurfaced concern around downtown parking and traffic along Wilcox Street, she said. Those are reasons she called the potential requirement for parking with each new downtown development essential.

“I think that should be a must,” Crosier said.

Optimistic for the future

Staff presented their intended recommendations for parking in the downtown at a March 1 open house, also attended by Crosier, in order to get community input on the ideas.

“I was very happy that I went to the meeting,” Crosier said. “I learned a lot of great information. Met a lot of really great people.”

Crosier is glad to see the town's recent effort toward improving parking downtown. She hopes they keep up the momentum. Bower said he too is happy with staff's recommendations. He's not sure how his fellow councilmembers feel but said passing the recommendations would be “huge” for the downtown area.

“I'm very optimistic,” Bower said, “we'll end up getting more parking downtown.”

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