City improving downtown parking lot

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 8, 2015

While not as drastic as the changes made to the lot sitting across the street some major improvements are underway to the public parking space located at the intersection of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The city broke ground on construction at the property earlier this week, with crews getting to work on installing storm sewer catch basins and piping. Over the next several weeks, the curbs adjacent to Main street will be removed as well, offering improved access to the lot from Pennsylvania and the nearby alley once completed.

The city will also be painting new perpendicular parking markers at the lot.

The parking lot, located behind the Huntington Bank lot, has been under city ownership for more than 12 years, said City Manager Kevin Anderson.

“It’s been underutilized in the past because people didn’t realize it was a parking lot,” Anderson said. “When people did use it, the space wasn’t being used effectively.”

In addition to the lack of visibility and accessibility, the lot’s lack of painted parking markers has caused it to underperform in that function, Anderson said.

“Studies have shown that when you don’t have a striped lot, you lose 30-40 percent of your possible parking space,” Anderson said.

Although the space has never had more than 25 cars parked in it before, the city manager said that the improvements should allow it hold 40 cars upon completion, which is estimated to take three to four weeks, Anderson said.

With development of the Dowagiac’s historic downtown picking up since the construction of the James E. Snow Professional Building at the corner of Front and Main Streets last year, the city has been seeking projects to improve the viability and visibility of the business district. Among the needs the city is looking to address with this development is parking, which improvements to the Main and Pennsylvania lot should help satisfy, Anderson said.

“This will be a great place for employee parking for downtown businesses, and it will be a great place for visitor parking during special events on the weekend,” Anderson said.

The city is also eyeing several other pieces of property that could serve as downtown parking, though at the moment they haven’t made any concrete plans for future projects, Anderson said.