Business owners say parking problems are hurting business

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Columbia business owners are reaching out for a solution to parking problems following the closing of another Columbia business to clear way for student housing. 

Top Ten Wines owner Paul Vernon said customers who are buying tangible goods that need to be carried around can find it difficult.

"There's no parking downtown for customers trying to buy real goods," he said.

Vernon said he believes it is a result of the growth in student housing over the past five years.

"With this kind of high density housing, there's just not a place for customers to come down and park in a convenient way," Vernon said.

Last week, the Columbia City Council approved a California-based developer's request to turn two plots of land, where Quinton's Bar and Deli are located, into a building mainly to be used for student housing.

Casablanca Mediterranean Grill announced yesterday it is closing its doors to make way for more student housing.

The pending student housing may make things worse for parking and his business, Vernon said. 

"I have plenty of customers that, over the years, just don't come downtown except for the summers," he said. "I thought they had moved but they said, 'No we just don't come downtown until the students are gone.'"

Columbia Public Works said it tries to offer parking where it can downtown. 

"One of the main ways we can do that is to provide better parking for business owners and employees," said Engineering Manager Richard Stone. 

The City offers a Parkmobile pilot program that gives downtown employees affordable parking for $35 per month. Employees can park at any Parkmobile 10-hour space, where there's no meter to feed. 

Stone said the increase in residents in the downtown area can be beneficial for downtown. 

"That keeps it lively, keeps businesses having customers. That being said there is a balance in having customers from outside the community, outside of downtown area, being able to find a place to park," Stone said.