MEDFORD, Ore. — The City of Medford is looking into downtown parking in hopes of attracting more developers, specifically for housing in the downtown area.
There is a proposal that is being presented to the city that would expand the downtown parking district. Within the existing parking district there is no requirement for businesses or new developments to require off-street parking.
“What this proposal does is, it says we’re going to take that boundary of the parking district and just make it the same as the central business district overlay, which is the zoning district that characterizes downtown,” said Harry Weiss, the executive director of Medford Urban Renewal Agency.
The existing parking district runs from 4th St. to 10th St. and from Bear creek to the railroad tracks. The extension would move that border further west, near Oakdale Ave.
“We don’t impose a requirement, that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to provide off-street parking; because they’re going to need it for their businesses, they’re going to need it if they want to do an apartment or apartment building. We’re just saying the city is not going to regulate it and tell you how much you have to have,” said Weiss.
Weiss says by not having off-street parking under city regulation, it frees up space to be used for other things.
“The issue here really is about how do you manage the demand for other things, other than places to park cars. People need to be able to park cars but people also need a place to live,” said Weiss.
In the coming year the planning department is going to be updating the “2050 Center City Plan,” according to Weiss. The department will be looking at how they facilitate development in downtown, particularly with an eye for how to create opportunities for housing downtown.
Weiss says requiring developers to supply parking in something like an apartment complex adds to the cost of the development and that cost could be passed down to renters.
“Often in multi-family housing, especially in downtown, you get all kinds of efficiencies. There are some people who don’t have cars and will ride the bus to work yet, if you mandate that the developer provide them a parking space that they don’t need then you’ve built in a cost in that development that makes it more expensive and makes it that much harder for someone to afford the rent.”
In some instances, parking regulations for development can work against the space.
“Most shopping centers, like the mall, the parking standard is to accommodate shoppers on Black Friday. The rest of the year those parking lots sit 60% empty,” said Weiss.
Adjusting the parking district is just one of a number of things the city and community committees are looking at to better the entire parking system downtown.
“We mainly have parallel parking spaces along our streets and on the narrow streets, that makes perfectly good sense,” said Weiss, “but on the streets like Main St., which is a very wide street, we could do diagonal parking on at least on one side and probably increase the parking on that side by an additional 60%.”
Weiss says right now they aren’t concerned about running out of parking, the current focus is on growth and development.
“We have a development problem and parking is just one of the things that is an impediment to get people to do development downtown, said Weiss, “we don’t have a supply problem, we have plenty of parking, we can just do a better job of managing it,” said Weiss
Weiss says that a parking garage is always a possibility for the future.
“When you look at really successful downtown’s that have been able to attract residential as well as commercial users typically, they provide substantial public parking in structure parking,” said Weiss, “By expanding the district, it gives us more flexibility to look at how the development occurs and how we can manage parking in a more efficient way to support development at the same time.”
The parking district is an “administrative” zone and it’s not part of the land development code so if this proposal is implemented it will be an ordinance passed by the city.
So far, the proposal has been endorsed by the parking committee, which oversees the parking district and the entire parking system. Weiss says he expects to have approval for the proposal in the next two months.