A parking study commissioned by a group of downtown business owners, along with officials from the Walton Arts Center and University of Arkansas, has been completed.
The study, conducted by North Carolina-based consultant Kimley Horn, examined the current and future parking needs in the Dickson Street and Block Avenue areas of downtown Fayetteville.
According to a summary of the study presented to the Fayetteville City Council last week, there are 2,447 total parking spaces in the area, but officials said that only around 1,519 of those are available in public lots and off street facilities. Those spaces, the study suggested, are running at about 80% capacity during “event conductions” when there is a show at the Walton Arts Center, a Razorback football game, etc.
The study was conducted over the course of three weekends last fall, including Sept. 22-24 during the run of “Pretty Woman” at the Walton Arts Center, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 for the Arkansas-Alabama football game, and Oct. 7-8 for what the group considers a “non-event weekend.”
The area the study focused on was the entertainment district from Lafayette Street to the north, Meadow Street to the south, University/Arkansas avenues to the west, and St. Charles/Block Avenue to the east.
A 330-space municipal parking deck is currently under construction in Fayetteville near the northwest corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue.
The new 330-space deck was built to replace the current 290-space lot across the street known locally as the Walton Arts Center parking lot. That lot is set to be removed and replaced with an outdoor park and plaza called The Ramble as part of the cultural arts corridor project.
Once construction of the deck is complete, removal of the parking lot across the street will begin to make way for the outdoor park and plaza, which will include a gathering and event lawn, garden spaces, a promenade and more.
The new structure will be the second municipal deck constructed in the Dickson Street entertainment district under Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s administration. The Spring Street parking deck opened in October 2015.
According to the parking study released this week, future development including the civic plaza, proposed downtown hotels, and other potential projects will result in the need for around 500 additional parking spaces in the area during peak events, with around 125 spaces needed during non-peak events.
Potential solutions to the future parking needs suggested by the study include integrating private lots into the public parking system, a unified pricing strategy, improved signage, requiring future developments to provide their own parking, and others. Another deck may also be needed, the study suggests.
It is not the first time that parking in the downtown area has been examined in recent years. The city in 2016 commissioned San Francisco-based consultants Nelson/Nygaard to develop a mobility and parking study for the entirety of downtown. The consultants delivered those results in 2017, and key recommendations identified from that study are in progress as part of the city’s Parking Master Plan.
Former Fayetteville City Council member Justin Tennant, who served on the council during the previous study and currently serves on the Walton Arts Center Council board, said at a press conference last fall that the new study is different than the 2017 study.
“While the city in the past has done a mobility study in this area of Fayetteville, this is the first comprehensive review of parking in the area,” Tennant said. “It is a very unique situation we have in Fayetteville, with a number of businesses and events that currently draw visitors from around the region to our downtown, and with many others interested in investing and developing more in this area, we really do have one chance to get this right.
The study, which officials said cost around $100,000 was paid for for by members of the independent coalition including Carl Collier, Dickson Street Improvement District; Brian Crowne, George’s Majestic Lounge; Jordan Garner, Ivy35Ventures; Todd Martin, South x Northwest Hospitality; Rachel Pendergraft, Drake Farms Development; Bob Pless, Walton Arts Center; Gary Smith and Matt Trantham, University of Arkansas; and Bill Waite, Dickson Street Liquor.