Greenville City Council debates over development plan, new parking study

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - Thursday night, members of the Greenville City Council entered the chambers with intentions to pick a developer to build on the former Imperial Tobacco Warehouse site, which they had narrowed down to three proposals from developers.

"I feel like we're just continuing to spend, and we're spending and spending and spending in hopes that this will be transformational," says Greenville Mayor PJ Connelly.

For certain members of the council, including the mayor, there was concern over the potential that the city would be responsible for building an estimated $15 million parking structure to accommodate parking for whatever is developed on the site, an issue complicated further by the fact that the parking deck would be built over a surface area parking lot that the city is already contractually obligated to build.

"Based off this conceptual design, right where that parking deck is, you know is supposed to be parking, but we aren't even prepared to even create that parking deck right now," Connelly explains.

"I mean, we are representing the public, so we have to keep that in mind when we are up here," says Councilman Will Litchfield. "Are we minimizing public investment if we are funding a $15 million parking deck?"

But for other members of the council, particularly Rick Smiley, they felt development of the site has already been delayed long enough.

"I think the thing that we might not be talking about here is that you know, this is a group, one of these groups, or a couple of these groups want to come in and spend $70 million," Smiley says.

But after much debate the council members came to a compromise, moving forward with two developers, Hallmark-Seacoast and The Keith Corporation, asking them to come back in the future with a more detailed proposal.

According to Greenville City Manager Anne Wall, more details from the two developers on their plans for the imperial site should be expected to be presented at either the March or April council meeting.

The council also talked about results of the parking study they requested. Recommendations made to improve parking included the creation of a job within the city government specifically focused on parking, the addition of parking enforcement officers, as well as re-assessment of the city's fine structure.

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Finding a place to park in one Eastern Carolina city isn't always easy and a new study shows the city has a bias towards who gets access to available spots.

Greenville authorized a parking study last April. Eighteen blocks from Dickinson Avenue toward the Town Comm were analyzed, including ECU parking lots around Reade Circle.

Walker Parking Consultants say the city excludes short-term parkers, which are mainly shoppers, diners, and visitors.

Instead more of the city's public parking is leased or designated for city and staff fleet vehicles

The study found out that out of the 657 on-street spaces, 61% are restricted to two-hour parking during normal business hours, while 28% are unrestricted, and 4% have parking meters.

Of the 637 off-street spaces, just 41% are for public parking, while 55% are reserved to specific groups, like city staff or businesses.

The study also found that the volume of cars parking in 30 minute, two-hour, and metered spaces stayed on the average longer than two-hours.

With major development talking place in the study zone, the consultants say with the current supply of spaces and new structures going up, the city has enough parking. But the consultant says Greenville needs a plan to better manage those spaces, especially for daytime visitors.

City council will receive the study at Thursday night's meeting.