Oxford Borough Council votes to accept parking management study
● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford took a small step toward deciding whether to build a parking garage in the business district at the Dec. 21 meeting as borough council formally accepted a parking management study that was completed by West Chester-based Krug Architects.
At the start of the meeting, Stephen Krug, the principal of Krug Architects, offered an update to borough council about the parking management study, which was initially unveiled at a meeting in October. Oxford is exploring parking garage options as a way to boost economic development in the business district by attracting new businesses and maintaining the current ones.
Donna Hosler, the executive director of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc., expressed her support for a long-term solution to the parking issues in the business district.
“This is how I’m going to be able to sell [Oxford] to a large employer,” Hosler said. “There are businesses that don’t even look at us because we don’t have the parking.”
Krug Architects has worked with communities on similar projects, and his firm has overseen five different parking garage projects in West Chester Borough alone. Krug said that they see parking structures as economic drivers, and he noted that parking garages in West Chester and Kennett Square played a key role in boosting economic development opportunities for both of those boroughs.
“Parking is an economic development strategy,” Krug said.
The study offered an analysis of several of the top potential locations for a parking garage, including the advantages and disadvantages of each site.
There were four potential locations for a parking structure that were thoroughly evaluated as the parking study was being compiled: A portion of the fire company’s parking lot; a lot near the intersection of South Third and Broad; and two different possibilities for the parking lot currently owned by National Penn Bank. One of the options for the lot owned by National Penn Bank would be situated north to south in the lot, while the other would be positioned in an east-to-west direction. One would impact the Verizon property more, while the other would affect the side of the lot that is closer to Second Street, and would require a relocation of one business that is currently located in the parking lot.
The committee working with Krug Architects on the preparation of the study favored the National Penn Bank-owned lot over the other possible sites because of several advantages it offers, starting with the fact that it has primarily been used in recent years as a parking lot. The lot is also located in the primary area of need that offers good pedestrian access to Third Street. A majority of the land for the parking garage can be acquired at a low cost, which is a major advantage. The parking garage can also be designed in such a way that it will allow for some smaller retail spaces adjoining the garage. One drawback for the site is that there are multiple property owners to work out a deal with before work on the parking garage could begin.
Krug said that the team working on the parking management study relied on a variety of resources, including a 2012 parking study that focused on parking demand, a multi-municipal comprehensive plan for the Oxford area, Landscapes 2, the county’s comprehensive plan, and the update to the Oxford Revitalization Plan that was completed this year.
The 2012 parking study found that there was a deficit of about 300 parking spaces in the business district. While borough officials will determine the size and scope of the project at some point in the future, Krug used the figure of 300 parking spaces to evaluate the potential locations for the parking garage. On the National Penn Bank parking lot site, a three-story parking structure would be built with room for 75 cars on each level, including a top level that would also accommodate 75 parking spots.
The study also included some low-cost options to make the most of the parking spots that are available in town, including continuing to enforce parking time limits, extending overall hours for metered parking, and converting un-metered spaces to metered ones for the efficient turnover of those spots. The borough has already implemented some of these suggestions.
The study also offered a series of short-term ideas to increase available parking in town, including the following: Organizing and configuring parking spaces along Niblock Alley; re-striping the Broad Street parking area; continuing to improve parking signage; continuing to update parking maps; changing traffic flow on Second Street and North 4th Street to make them, at least temporarily, one-way streets, to open up parking spaces; and negotiating with private property owners for parking spots, including the fire hall lot, church parking lots, or lots owned by businesses like the Miss Oxford Diner to secure additional parking when those spaces are not being used.
While some of the short-term solutions may help improve the situation, Krug was a strong advocate for moving forward with a plan to build a parking garage. He said that the costs for a garage that would accommodate 300 vehicles is approximately $5.73 million, and the parking management study includes a three-year timeline on how the borough will proceed with plans if borough officials opt to move forward with building a parking garage.
Council president Ron Hershey asked Krug how much grant money the borough could expect to receive to help fund the project.
“I’m guessing half,” Krug said. “If you can do better than that, that would be great. You’ll be pursuing about $3 million in grants.”
If Oxford Borough officials do decide to move forward with the plan to build a parking garage, securing any possible funding from county, state, or federal sources would become a priority. Krug explained that one of the next steps for Oxford Borough would be retaining a firm to assist with the efforts to acquire grants.
Once the outside funding is lined up, the borough would then need to issue parking revenue bonds to pay for the remaining costs of the project. The parking revenues that the garage would generate would be used to offset the costs to build it. While the borough would have initial costs to get the project underway, there shouldn’t be a need to spend tax dollars each year to pay for the garage because revenues that the parking garage generates should be sufficient to cover the costs.
Following Krug’s presentation, Oxford Borough Council voted unanimously to accept the parking management study.