Some of Kimley-Horn and Associates' top national minds in urban and transportation planning will spend the next two months pursuing future parking solutions for Downtown Winter Park, and start this Thursday morning with input from the public.
Winter Park's downtown district, an area of 0.25 square miles with roughly 1,900 surface and structured parking spots available now, is bounded by Fairbanks Avenue to the south, Webster Avenue to the north, Interlachen Avenue to the east and New York Avenue to the west.
While research from recent years has shown vehicle traffic and parking demand is actually decreasing in Winter Park's downtown, accessible parking is still one of the most common complaints made by citizens, tourists and business owners around Park Avenue.
How to best leverage existing parking supply that's not being fully utilized in downtown will be a focal point for Kimley-Horn planner Stephen Stansbery out of Charlotte, and parking consultant Brett Wood from Phoenix.
"In our time here I've found most of the parking in downtown is very convenient," Stansbery said Tuesday night in a meeting with members of various city boards. "It's not necessarily as convenient as the spot right in front of a store, but the public lots are all within a block of the main street."
This won't be just a parking study that documents supply and demand, nor a traditional parking plan that's time-sensitive.
Stansbery and Wood will define the parking challenges Downtown Winter Park faces now and may see in the future, and will produce a best practices gameplan for how to respond to as many as possible.
That includes considering how parking demand could grow if commercial real estate capacity is maximized on undeveloped lots around downtown.
After holding meetings this week with city officials and the public on Thursday, the Kimley-Horn consultants will head home to mine the data. They'll then return in early August for a second round of meetings, a public presentation of their recommendations.
Issues to be considered include if employees of shops and restaurants on Park Avenue should be restricted to parking in a particular area off site, installation of app-based parking meters and better wayfinding signage to encourage garage use.
A free smartphone app for the public that shows parking availability in real time has been successful in changing traffic behavior in large cities nationally, Wood said. The falling cost of parking sensor technlogy and camera analytics could make this a reasonable investment for a smaller city like Winter Park.
Park Avenue has more restaurants than ever before, but there's no restriction now in the city code for repurposing a retail or office site downtown for dining, a more parking-intensive use. The consultants could determine if the city has hit a threshold for conversion of uses on Park Avenue.
The research will also help determine if another parking garage is needed in downtown, which would be a $10 million investment or more for the city that could become antiquated in a decade if driverless vehicles and ride-sharing services reduce parking demand.
The downtown parking public forum will be held Thursday from 8:30 to 10:30 am, at the Winter Park Welcome Center on W. Lyman Avenue.