At their meeting on February 16, Council discussed the future of capital funding for a 300-space parking structure, but took no action on whether $8 million in funding should be included for the project.
The topic also came up at a meeting earlier on February 16 of the Charlottesville Parking Advisory Panel that featured an update on the city’s Parking Action Plan. Rick Siebert was hired as the city’s first parking manager in the fall of 2016 to implement a plan.
“This was originally a five-year plan that expired in 2020 and we’ve been talking about how we might change some of the objectives for the next five years,” Siebert said.
This plan was intended to “optimize existing resources,” “enhance access alternatives”, and “maintain and grow supply.” The plan called for a pilot program for parking meters on streets close to the Downtown Mall, but the project did not last for the initial six-month testing period.
There wasn’t a lot of back and forth at this meeting about the plan, or what a future plan might look like.
Kirby Hutto, general manager of the Charlottesville Pavilion and parking panel member, said tourism is a major part of economic development for downtown.
“I can tell you that the majority of our patrons are not residents of Charlottesville,” Hutto said. “They’re coming in from the outlying counties and sometimes coming in from a hundred miles away. They’re going to drive. I’m sorry. There is nothing that is going to put them on public transportation but if we want their revenue, if we want those tax dollars, we have to be able to accommodate them.”
Siebert said parking levels are beginning to rebound and are at about fifty percent of pre-COVID levels. The majority are people with monthly passes, but about a fifth are hourly parkers.
“Events were major drivers in our transient revenue and the lack of events has been felt,” Siebert said.
The Charlottesville Pavilion canceled its entire season last year, and planning is underway to at least think about scheduling something in the near future as community health targets are met. The idea would be to open up gradually with a percentage of total capacity.
“We’re starting to see glimmers of light,” Hutto said. “There’s a group of venue managers from around the state including a lot of the big boys like Kings Dominion, Richmond Raceway, and Hampton Coliseum, JPJ, that have put together what I think is a really well-thought out reopening plan that is tied to milestones that you can actually track and see. You know, vaccination percentage of the general public. New infections reported. Those two numbers. As the first one climbs and the second one declines, they’ve got a proposal and my understanding this in front of the Governor’s task force right now.
Hutto said that might mean events at the Pavilion as early as June, but agents with nationally touring acts are not planning until returning to tours until the fall.
“No one is asking for dates in June and July,” Hutto said. “Everyone is asking for dates in September and October.”
In a conversation I had with Siebert today, he said a draft of the Parking Action Plan will be ready by the end of the week for future discussion by the panel and other stakeholders slated for after that time.
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