City reconsiders reverse angle parking, may reverse itself

Penny Frankhouser exits her car after successfully backing her car into a parking space on Seventh Street.

After nearly three years of complaints about the 47 back-in parking spaces on sections of Seventh and Main streets, the city of Grand Junction will consider reconstructing reverse parking to the standard front-end parking.

Grand Junction City Council members during their Wednesday night meeting will decide whether to approve $60,000 from Downtown Development Authority funds to make the switch. The bid estimate comes from Sorter Construction, which is doing work on the second phase of the downtown uplift.

Changing parking spaces would be included as part of other Main Street renovations. The changes will require alterations to curbs, gutters, planting and landscaping, and will eliminate two parking spaces on Main Street, according to the city’s report.

“I told them that it makes no sense. They shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” said Jesus Gutierrez, owner of Dos Reales Tortilleria, 124 Seventh St. “A lot of people won’t come in here because they don’t know how to park. I haven’t had one person that comes in here and likes it.”

Gutierrez said he supports the city reversing the parking layout. However, he’s not looking forward to living through another construction zone. Construction on the street in 2007–08 nearly killed his walk-in business, he said.

Greg Biskupski, an employee at Mama’s Treasures, 741 Main St., said he hears complaints constantly from customers having to back in to park. He hears a similar story during Sunday church services he attends at the Avalon Theatre.

Most of his customers — he estimates 90 percent — simply avoid the reverse parking option and park in a lot behind the antique store.

“That’s one advantage we have,” he said of having an extra lot, a luxury for downtown stores.

In 2007, the city spent $4.2 million for the entire redesign of Main Street between Seventh and Eighth streets and Seventh Street between Grand and Ute avenues. The thinking was that there would be enough room for motorists to pull off before angling vehicles in backward. It was also thought the design would be safer for people exiting vehicles who would naturally be directed to sidewalks instead of streets. And, although backing in may require more work, motorists would be able to clearly see traffic before pulling out onto the road. Indeed, there have been no traffic accidents related to parking in that stretch, according to the city.

While the back-in parking was dubbed to have a “traffic-calming” effect, according to planning research, a 10-month experiment with reverse parking was deemed a failure in Glenwood Springs. As of May 2007, City Council members there voted to go back to standard parking. Reverse angle parking initially was slated for the remodel of Colorado Avenue in Grand Junction, but that plan was scrapped in response to mounting complaints. The area now has standard parking. The stretch along Seventh Street and 15 spaces on Main Street are the city’s only back-in spaces.

Grand Junction City Council member Gregg Palmer said he would support the recommendation by the DDA to alter the back-in spaces.

“I’ve tried it,” Palmer said of reverse parking. “Do I know older relatives that I want to watch do it? No.”

Heidi Hoffman Ham, executive director of the DDA, said reverse parking has been criticized since it was instated. With construction already under way on Main Street, it seemed like a good time to redo parking on Seventh and Main streets.

If approved, construction would begin after completion of the downtown uplift. Costs to do the parking project are included in the downtown uplift bid as the winning bid was less expensive than the DDA anticipated, she said.

“It might have worked had we done it in a bigger area,” Hoffman Ham said. “Because it’s such an isolated spot, it hasn’t worked out as well as it was intended to.”


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