City discusses downtown parking solutions

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COLUMBIA - The Downtown Leadership Council discussed downtown parking solutions Tuesday as the city prepares to release recommendations to the Columbia City Council.

“It’s going to always be an issue. Parking is something that every retail area has to deal with and I appreciate that downtown is constantly looking for new and different and better ways to improve their situation,” downtown business owner Ruth LaHue said. 

An audit of parking downtown, on-street parking was always full downtown, but always available in garages. Parking in East Campus and Benton Stephens was also always full.

After the audit results were released in September, stakeholders held a workshop to create recommendations for solving the parking problem. 

City staffer Leah Christian said the recommendations consist of five “next steps,” with one of those steps the development of a parking commission.

“It was a response based on how quickly we’re growing and wanting to get good ideas and technical assistance to help us create the best steps for moving forward,” Christian said.

The remaining steps work into other plans the city already has in place, according to Christian.

LaHue owns My Secret Garden downtown and credits the city with helping her in the past with parking problems. Her daughter suffers from multiple sclerosis and cannot make the walk from the handicap parking spaces on the third level of the Eighth and Walnut parking garage.

“It just became impossible for her to use those and so she was trying to park on the street. It takes someone who’s handicapped a lot longer to get in and out of their car and to load and unload things,” LaHue said. 

LaHue said she appreciates the attention the city gives to improving parking downtown. 

City staff will present parking recommendations at the city council meeting on November 16.