Parking in downtown Alpena has been a troublesome issue for years. Local government and agencies say there is ample parking for workers, residents and customers, but that it needs to be utilized properly. Others say quality parking is in low supply and measures need to be taken to provide easier access to local businesses.
The new parking regulations downtown which are being implemented Tuesday, may or may not provide the solution and are surely not going to please everyone. The new plan, which was proposed by the Alpena Downtown Development Authority and approved by the Alpena Municipal Council, are geared toward offering premium, short-term parking for customers, while providing near-by longer term parking for store owners and employees.
The new plan will limit parking in the lot on River Street and Third Avenue, and another between First Avenue and Second Avenue to three hours, while the remainder will be all day. Residents who live downtown will also have nearby 24-hour parking via permits.
Cindy Straley owns the Inspire Salon on Chishom Street downtown. She has had a business for 17 years and said she believes more strict parking regulations and fees are necessary to provide customers more direct access to her shop. She said parking has been an issue for too long and is confident the new regulations could be the answer. She said there is plenty of parking downtown and store owners and employees should park in the near-by parking lots, instead of the curb side and three-hour parking near the store fronts. She said her customers have expressed concerns about parking downtown.
"Owners and employees need to be accountable and park where the city says we should. I come to work at 7 a.m. in the morning and the prime parking lots are already taken, it's obvious it is the employees, because it is hours before the stores open," Straley said. "It is the same cars every day. I have customers complain every day. We don't have a parking shortage. We have a parking management issue. I think that could be easily resolved if we just put parking meters on the streets."
Gene Truman, who enjoys visiting the downtown for shopping, a cup of coffee and local events, said parking near the stores is important to him because as a senior he doesn't get around as well as he used to. He said there has been times he has struggled to find convenient parking and abandoned his shopping plans due to it.
"I don't move very fast or very far so the closer I can get the easier is for me," Truman said. "I normally don't spend three hours downtown at one time, so I think that amount of time is fine. In the winter it's hard, because it seems like there are piles of snow in front of the sidewalks and you either have to climb through them or find an area that is clear. It seems like the handicap parking is quite far away."
Straley said she has a system in place at the salon that discourages her workers from parking in front of the store, or in short term parking areas. She said if they are caught parking in either, they are expected to pay a $25 penalty to Straley that is in turn donated to either the Huron Humane Society, or the local soup kitchen. She said in her conversations with other business owners downtown, she has been told most are in favor of the parking changes. She said those that aren't are only making it more difficult for their business.
"You can't complain about lack of business if you are parking in front of your own store," Straley said. "They are the ones that are not concerned about getting to their door, but for us having close parking for our customers is critical."
Shawn Straley owns Masters Shoes. She said it is a constant battle to lure customers into the store when there is no vacant parking in the front or near her establishment. She said her businesses suffers due to it.
"There are tenants and owners that take up the parking and people slow down and if there isn't a spot, they continue to go," Straley said. "I hear that from many of my customers. The parking downtown has a direct impact on my business."
My Glass Wings owner Tina Montgomery said she has classes in her shop and many of her customers are older. She said if they can't park close to the store it is a challenging for them to reach the studio, especially in the winter.
I have customers that will drive around the block three times before they can park and some just give up," Montgomery said. "There are days when I lose business and money on a regular basis because of parking."
Trenton Glomski is from New Jersey and was visiting friends. Thursday he parked his car in the parking lot behind the Owl Cafe and did some shopping downtown. He said he did not have difficulty finding a parking spot and added that he was surprised it was free.
"I travel a lot and there are not a lot of places that don't have meters," Glomski said. "Parking here isn't bad at all. Everything is close together and I think most people can walk from one end of main street to the other in less than five minutes."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.