Kilbourne Group’s Mike Allmendinger talks downtown parking and its many, wide-reaching effects.
Originally posted in the May 2017 issue of Fargo, INC!
PHOTOS BY Paul Flessland and courtesy of Kilbourne Group
At Kilbourne Group, we get excited about seeing an abundance of people strolling the sidewalks; shopping at unique retailers; and enjoying the culture, art and dining experiences in Downtown Fargo. The vibrancy of the Downtown neighborhood has seen its ebbs and flows over the course of Fargo’s history, and we are grateful to be part of this time of exciting growth.
What was already perceived to be a tight parking situation got even tighter last year when the City of Fargo began construction on the first new Downtown garage in more than a decade.
By the end of May, Roberts Garage, which is located at the corner of Second Avenue North and Roberts Street, will be open for business, adding 455 new parking spots to this rapidly developing block Downtown. The garage includes parking for more than 200 bikes as well, making it a great addition to this walkable, bikeable community.
City of Fargo Parking Commissioner Margie Bailly cheered for the city’s progress in ensuring adequate downtown-parking resources at the April Parking Commission meeting.
“Public-private partnerships have successfully and creatively increased parking capacity in urban-core environments across the country,” she said. “The City of Fargo’s partnership with the Kilbourne Group is an example of this proven strategy. This partnership brings to fruition a vision that has been discussed by the Fargo Parking Commission, city leaders and private developers for many years. The Roberts Commons and Block 9 projects will be signature spaces and places the citizens of Fargo can be proud of.”
Roberts Garage is part of the Roberts Commons project, a garage surrounded by a mixed-use wrap building that includes more than 70 apartments and ground-floor retail and restaurant space. Mixed-use garages are very efficient, as different types of users—residents, Downtown workers and shoppers—use the spaces at different times of the day, increasing its usage.
Another garage is planned for the Block 9 development site, which will be open to the public after 5 p.m. and on weekends, making it even more convenient to enjoy your Downtown experience.
The Roberts Garage was made possible through a partnership between the City of Fargo and Kilbourne Group, whose project proposal was chosen through a competitive process.
Twice a year, the City of Fargo surveys the Downtown parking situation and creates parking counts to gauge the availability of short-term parking. Their efforts prove that parking is consistently available for those willing to walk a short distance (less than three blocks). Though perception is reality.
There is another perception we like to illustrate. In almost any town across the Midwest, you know when you’ve reached downtown. It feels different and looks different than the suburban areas of the city. A key element of urban development is the lack of parking lots between you and the front door. It’s what makes a downtown walkable and special.
When you leave your car behind and walk through downtown, the doors of the businesses open right onto the sidewalk, inviting you in repeatedly and as you walk down the street. A downtown should be designed for you, not your car. It’s meant to be experienced on foot, not driven through.
The City of Fargo is always working to increase the convenience of leaving your car behind so that you can experience Downtown. Interstate Parking has installed new parking control equipment in the Civic Center ramp (Radisson) that has license-plate recognition and accepts credit cards. The same equipment will be used in the new Roberts Garage. Parking “way-finding” signs are also being installed Downtown to direct motorists to the parking facilities.
You can see the results of the City’s efforts and read its most recent parking study at CityOfFargo.com/CityInfo/Parking.
During a visit to Downtown Fargo in October 2016, national consultant Bob Gibbs of Urban Retail Institute identified parking as a potential roadblock to a thriving downtown. He presented research illustrating how parking meters support higher retail sales in urban areas. With meters, each downtown parking space turns over at least 10 to 12 times per day, which, in a thriving retail environment, translates to $150,000 to $250,000 in retail sales per year per space. He said that that is enough to support one store per space.
Gibbs will return to Downtown Fargo on June 13 to provide a free workshop on how to drive foot traffic to small business in urban areas. For more information, visit kilbournegroup.com/Retail.
Because parking availability is vital to the success of ground-floor retail, it should be treated as a valuable commodity. During the retail business hours, meters would allow downtown districts to better manage availability and increase turnover, especially in high-demand areas.
A recent legislative push to repeal North Dakota’s ban on parking meters brought the subject into the spotlight. Though the repeal was not approved, we appreciate the community conversation and look forward to continuing to research the effects of meters in downtown retail districts.
Another key to the success of ground-floor retail is on-street parking directly in front of businesses. To experience the power of on-street parking firsthand, look at the one block of Main Avenue that has retained its economic activity with retail storefronts. It’s the only block with on-street parking.
Dr. Donald Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking,” says, “The ideal price for parking is the lowest price the city can charge and still leave one or two vacant spaces on every block. So that everybody will have great parking karma.”
So here’s to great parking karma, and here’s to all the business owners, city leaders, and community-builders who have worked hard to create an experience worth parking and getting out of your car for. See you Downtown!