by Terry Rogers
As part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan update, the City contracted Whitman, Requardt & Associates to perform a downtown parking study, through a grant provided by the Dover Kent Metropolitan Planning Organization. The purpose of the study was to determine whether the number and allocation of public parking spaces for downtown merchants and customers was adequate.
“This study involved typical parking conditions and did not include event parking,” Adreinne Eiss, Project Manager, said. “It included the C-2 General Business District zone and involved retail establishments, commercial restaurants as well as parks and public destinations such as the Milford Library and Milford Senior Center.”
An initial inventory revealed that there were 327 on-street spaces, 433 public off-street spaces owned by the City of Milford and approximately 1,000 private off-street spaces, bringing the total available parking spaces in the downtown area to around 1,750. A turnover count was conducted on a Thursday between 10 AM and 7 PM in the three busiest lots located in two-hour limit zones.
“We found no obvious shortage of parking spaces on typical days,” Eiss said. “When an individual block or lot is full, spaces are always available in adjacent blocks or on a nearby lot. However, there is a need for better direction to the public lots, better identification of public parking lots. Poor layouts of parking lots must also be addressed as they cause traffic conflicts and confusion.”
This is not the first time the City has been told there is no shortage of parking in the downtown area. In 2016, Arnette, Muldrow & Associates presented the Riverwalk Rebirth plan which also included a parking study. At that time, Ben Muldrow pointed out that there was ample parking but better signage was necessary to direct people where to park. Muldrow explained that lack of parking was a “perception problem” as downtown Milford was not yet a destination. He explained that in Lewes or Rehoboth, people will park blocks away because they have several reasons to be there while, in Milford, people are just running in to Dolce for a cup of coffee or a downtown office for a quick appointment.
Eiss suggested several of the same things that Muldrow brought up during his presentation. She suggested new signs for public lots and parking directional signage on the streets. She also suggested naming parking lots and to add online mapping of public parking locations.
“Adding a convenient, highly visible entrance to the Northwest Front Street lot would also help,” Eiss said. “Changing the existing exit driveway to an entrance and adding a lot identification sign rather than “Do Not Enter” makes the lot seem less remote for destinations south of Northwest Front Street. Adding pedestrian directional signing to the Southwest Front Street lot will raise awareness of the existing walkway to Walnut Street as well. Improving the Arena’s, Park Avenue, City Hall and Pearl Alley lots for better traffic flow would also be beneficial.”
Eiss explained that employees of downtown businesses were using public lots which eliminated spaces for customers and visitors. She suggested that the City work with businesses to encourage employees to park in underutilized lots north of Front Street to increase availability of parking for visitors. Adding street parking to the east side of Washington Street between Southeast and Northeast Front could benefit several downtown locations, including the Milford Library. Of the recommendations made, eight of them could be completed in less than two years and nine can be implemented using only City resources. The estimate for signage improvements was $65,000 while parking lot improvements were estimated at $262,000. Overall, it was estimated parking could be improved for a cost of $330,000.
“Many of these recommendations are already in the capital budget,” Rob Pierce, City Planner, said. “This includes parking lot upgrades and parking signage. We have also already begun improving several parking lots downtown.” Arena’s parking lot was recently repaved and a new parking pattern added to increase parking spaces and make the lot easier to maneuver.
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