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parking on worth ave

Our Town with William Kelly: Short-term parking to be expanded on Worth Avenue

More parking changes are in store for Worth Avenue as part of the town’s ongoing effort to encourage space turnover and add convenience for short-term shoppers.

The Town Council on Tuesday unanimously decided to place a 30-minute limit on
12 free parking spaces in the 200 (mid) and 300 (west-of-mid) blocks of the avenue. The remainder of the spaces in the two blocks will continue to be free with a two-hour limit.

Six of the half-hour spaces will on the north side in the 200 block and six on the north side in the 300. Each group of six will be clustered so they’re easy to spot and no additional signs will need to be posted, Deputy Town Manager Jay Boodheshwar said.

Town officials are betting that the 30-minute cap will discourage shop employees and Midtown Beach visitors from taking those spaces, which they say are intended for patrons of the shops and restaurants.

“They’re still free and accessible, but short-timed, which keeps employees out of the spaces and makes it more customer-friendly,” Boodheshwar said. “Our goal is to make sure there is a space or two open even during the busiest times.”

The 12 spaces are in addition to the four 30-minute free spaces the council designated last year on the avenue’s 100 (ocean) block.

That action was taken in tandem with the decision in September to convert 16 spaces on the 100 block to $6-an-hour paid parking. Those spaces were previously free with a two-hour limit.

Boodheshwar said paid parking is working well on the avenue and is being used by local and visiting shoppers and by beachgoers.

The town is considering an eventual expansion of paid parking onto the 200 and 300 blocks to further discourage employees from taking premium spaces away from customers.

Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay said she has witnessed the employees grabbing the most convenient parking spaces for themselves.

“I drive by early in the morning and most of the spaces are being taken by employees,” she said. “The residents are not getting these spaces.”

Council members have suggested that there’s plenty of room for the employees to park in the nearby Apollo parking lot on Peruvian Avenue. The lot is privately owned and the employees have to pay to park there, however.

Worth Avenue merchants have long resisted town attempts to introduce paid parking in the world-class shopping district, fearing it would drive away customers. But Lindsay said she believes there has been a “sea change” in their position toward paid parking.

“I think they recognize the abuse that is going on,” she said. “It’s not just employees. Beachgoers are nice people, but they figure if they can grab a free space for two hours, instead of paying $6 an hour for parking, they will do it.”

Councilwoman Julie Araskog said she was concerned that 30 minutes won’t be enough time for people to shop. She questioned whether 12 spaces would be too many to designate for short-term shopping on the two blocks.

“I just worry that we will shut out people who are shopping or want to have lunch,” Araskog said. “That’s a lot of spaces to take away from Worth Avenue.”

But the other council members disagreed.

“Thirty minutes is ample time to dash into a store and pick up a gift,” Lindsay said.

The avenue has a total of about 130 parking spaces, so there will still be plenty that are free with a two-hour limit, according to Boodheshwar.

The town is selecting a valet operator who will provide that service on the avenue during daytime hours, Councilman Lew Crampton noted. That will be an option for people who want to visit the avenue for longer than two hours, or who simply like the convenience of valet service.

Town Manager Kirk Blouin said that, if the goal is more rapid turnover of spaces, then a shorter time frame will accomplish that.

Crampton said a half-hour limit will discourage employees from using those spaces.

“The key thing is to get those employees off of that street,” he said.