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Study shows parking not full downtown

By Staff | Aug 9, 2015

A recent parking survey of downtown Blue Earth seems to show that there is currently enough parking spaces to fill demand.

In fact, there are more than enough parking spots to serve the need.

Brent Pearson, of Region Nine, presented the results of the survey to the Blue Earth City Council at their meeting last Monday night.

Pearson said volunteers conducted on-site parking counts during three weeks two weeks in May and one in June.

“We had volunteers circle each of the eight blocks of the central downtown business district in Blue Earth counting parked cars,” Pearson said. “And they did this every 15 minutes throughout each day of the week.”

Pearson said there are a total of 104 parking spaces on Main Street in the downtown area, and another 265 that are off of Main on the side streets, but still downtown.

“Our average for downtown parking was 27.7 percent occupancy (by parked cars),” Pearson said. “The highest percentage at any one time on any of the eight blocks was 51.9 percent.”

He added that parking is considered at maximum if 85 percent of the parking spaces are ever used all at one time. If it is over 85 percent occupancy, Pearson says that could be a reason to seek out more parking areas.

“We would even say there is some reason for concern if 50 to 55 of the available spaces were filled in Blue Earth,” Pearson said. “But we did not see that.”

He admitted, however, that he was told by several businesses that the survey was done at a slow period in the year.

“We did hear from several businesses that the fall and early winter holiday season is much busier than it is in early summer,” he said. “So one of our recommendations is to take another survey later this fall.”

The survey was done with cooperation between the city of Blue Earth, the Blue Earth Active Living Coalition, Community Education, Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce and the Statewide Health Improvement Plan (SHIP).

Besides the walking tally of daily occupancy of parking spaces, the survey also included input from business owners and employers, employees of businesses, and citizens who frequently park downtown.

Among the recommendations of the study, as presented by Pearson, was to hold public meetings to identify goals and develop a unified vision for the downtown central business district.

They also recommended more parking study at other times of the year, developing ways to improve walkability and streetscaping (which could narrow streets to expand sidewalks.

The study also recommends keeping the same number of parking spaces in the future, and working to increase traffic to the downtown area.

A final recommendation was to do a mix of parallel and angle parking in a way that would accommodate the areas that needed the additional parking.

“We suggest having parallel parking on the west side of Main Street and angled parking on the east side,” Pearson said. “Because our survey shows fewer cars parked on the west side, so we believe this would make sense.”

Pearson added that in actuality, parallel parking could be on both sides of the street and not cause a parking shortage.

“There would be a loss of four spaces per block if you go to parallel, but there are more than enough spaces, according to our survey,” he said. “You are nowhere near the 85 percent rate.”

In other business at last Monday’s meeting, the City Council:

Granted two requests to close off one block of Sixth Street between Main and Nicollet on two separate dates Aug. 29 and Sept. 12.

Both requests were for fundraiser events to be held in the street.

Authorized the purchase of a new city truck at a total cost of nearly $300,000 for the 2016 Mack and the equipment to go on it.

Decided to pursue more information on the possible purchase by the city of tax forfeited property.

The city had already demolished the house at the site, Seventh and Rice, but the council decided to see if there was anyone else interested in the property.

Learned that the Blue Earth Pool had attained a 100 percent on a recent inspection of the pool and concession stand for the first time.

The council commended the staff.

Heard an update on the various street projects that included information on striping on Second Street, two more weeks of underground utility work on Smith and Circle Drive, then the streets will be graded and prepped for paving, and both the airport project and the 21st Street project are still on hold.