One of the hot topics around town is the lack of convenient parking. It’s a somewhat new issue because the Edmonds downtown shopping core has really blossomed in the past few years. For-lease signs have been replaced with vibrant and updated shops coming into their own. Trends show people are turning away from impersonal big box stores, and increasingly seeking out independent stores. Edmonds is very unique in the greater Seattle area, and our locals as well as out-of-towners are starting to take notice. The challenge is providing parking spots for the influx of enthusiastic shoppers who want to enjoy an “Edmonds Kind of Day.”
I opened my store in 2012, and have seen the positive growth of the past five years bringing in more business, but have also started hearing customers complain about lack of parking. When Edmonds was a sleepy little town, you could usually find a parking spot within sight of your destination. Now you may need to search a block or two over. Locals are feeling the pinch and so are the businesses.
Customers are letting us know on a regular basis they want to find parking a bit easier and closer to their destination. Sometimes they give up and leave because they could not find a place to park. When parking frustrations start turning away customers, something needs to be done.
You will be glad to know that business owners and the folks at city hall are coming up with a patchwork of solutions.
Pam Stuller of Walnut Street Coffee is a member of a parking task force made up of directors from the city, police department and two community liaisons. She reports that they have been able to tackle issues like employee parking, better utilization of existing street parking, and 3 hour parking enforcement. They are making a pretty good dent in this problem.
Moving the boundaries that allow employee parking further up the hill in a few areas has opened up 35-40 parking spots for shoppers. Public utilities re-striped around driveways and intersections to add approx 30-40 additional spaces. You may notice newly painted “tick marks” to signify parking spaces along the length of 5th and Main to maximize how cars are parking. Businesses are encouraging the city to continue painting in these dividing lines on more streets. Staying “inside the lines” helps us all to utilize the existing spots better. No one wants to be that guy who takes up two spots, right!?
Another step was coming up with more funding for our local “meter maid.” You may notice cars that stay past the three-hour time limit are now being ticketed more forthrightly. The goal is to discourage people from using prime parking spots for entire days.
The police station is getting some push back from citizens who are unhappy with their parking ticket. It’s a trade-off for sure. It’s not much fun to find a ticket on your car, but I’ve heard in many cases they are making an effort to make the first offense a friendly warning.
There are also plans to convert 14 spaces in the lot behind HouseWares from reserved monthly paid parking to free three-hour parking. That is a prime lot in the heart of the shopping district.
Kimberly Koenig, owner of Rogue and president of Edmonds Downtown Alliance (Ed!), has been very involved in coming up with creative ideas to add parking. “I’m excited about the work that Ed! is doing on this issue,” she said. “We recently launched an After Hours Parking program to incorporate consistent signage so visitors can use private lots outside a business’ regular hours. Harry Ostrander at Bank of Washington is the first business partner in this effort. Initial feedback has been positive and we’re looking forward to adding additional partners to the program. This will be great for the restaurants and the theaters.”
Look for the new signage popping up around town signifying new “After Hours” parking lots. Thank you Bank of Washington for leading the way on this innovative idea.
To keep things in perspective, folks from Seattle aren’t complaining. They see a quaint town with free, three-hour parking as a gift. There are some aspects of Edmonds that we like to keep old-fashioned and that’s one of them. You didn’t have to pay to tie your horse up to the hitching post in 1860 and you don’t have to pay to park your car now.
Mall shoppers don’t seem to have a hard time making the switch to small town shopping either. Think about how far away you are from the actual store when you park at Alderwood Mall. That’s got to be a good distance longer than a one block walk… and Edmonds is more likely to thrill you with a stunning view of the sound while you get a few more steps in.
I hope the city will come around to the realization that a parking structure should be added to their long-term goals and start setting aside some funds for that. Edmonds is on the upswing. We are busy and growing. There’s every likelihood of continuing our small-town traditions with the hope of prosperity, and parking spots, in the future.
— By Tracy Kay Felix
Tracy Felix is currently the President of the Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association, and co-owner of ARTspot.