As demand grows, city officials keep a close watch on downtown parking needs

KINGSPORT ‚¬ City leaders indicate that more than 1,200 parking spaces are available in the downtown area; with more properties available should parking pressures develop in the future.

Planning leaders meet quarterly with the Positive Parking Committee of downtown business owners and others to discuss current problems and potential fixes.

Its this group that has developed overnight parking passes for downtown residents and revised customers parking passes for downtown merchants that allow customers to exceed the standard two hour limit.

I have worked with several communities in the Southeast, both rural and metro, and having a downtown urban core with a perceived parking problem is a great indicator of thriving activity, Development Services Director Lynn Tully said Tuesday. In reality, we have plenty of parking available.

Questions over parking availability recently returned to the forefront with the successful recruitment of IntelliHARTX to a building on the corner of Center and Commerce streets. The company, a patient contact firm, expects to open with about 100 employees, but this could grow to as many as 500 jobs over the next four years.

At the same time, the downtown area continues to draw new residents, with more than 100 loft apartments and condos now in use.

Our understanding is that employees at the IntelliHARTX facility will be working in shifts, so that should lessen the impact, Tully said. And with our lofts, many of our downtown residents now tend to park overnight in the garage or in lots. We are seeing very few parking on the street anymore.

Currently, there are 11 free public parking areas within a walking distance of three to seven minutes. The largest, by far, is the Shelby Street Parking Garage with 363 parking spaces on three levels. At peak times, the facility still has 45 to 50 percent of capacity.

The key crunch area at the moment tends to center on the 90 space lot at the corner of Commerce and Market streets.‚  This lot serves a restaurant and other personal service businesses nearby, as well as WKPT TV-19 employees.

But a block away is another 145 space lot on Cherokee Street. This lot is only a five minute walk to the corner of Center and Broad streets.

There are a number of options we could consider if parking gets too tight, Tully said. The City holds several parcels that could be converted to parking if needed.

This inventory includes the former Wards Feed Store, the former Traffic Division building next to the Cherokee Street lot, and the gravel area near Sleepy Owl Brewery, among other possibilities.

Another option might be to consider adding on-street parking, as many of the public side streets downtown feature especially wide public right-of-ways.

Based on my experience, our current parking availability is good, with a very reasonable distribution of parking areas, Tully said. All of them are convenient, safe and accessible. But we stay in touch with our downtown customers to see how we can continue to improve.

Please note: Below you will find a map of downtown parking lots and a second map denoting how much of this parking is within the bartprint of a typical Walmart.

Downtown Parking Lots

Walmart Parking Outline