DBA endorses lease for parking lot

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2005

Urban design consultants have stressed the need for a parking facility in downtown Suffolk, and on Wednesday a merchants association formally urged city council to take support a recent proposal put forth by two local businessmen.

The Downtown Business Association adopted a resolution endorsing a proposal by the owners of the Downtown Jazz Club to lease property they own on South Main Street to the city for parking.

Sherwin Turner and Ernest Balmer, owners of the club, which is expected to open next month, explained their offer, which calls for demolishing the buildings occupied by Morris Piland Printing and Epps Farm Supply and leasing the property to the city. Balmer noted the city owns the lot adjacent to the property and that the combined areas provide space for a multi-level parking garage. He added the area would offer three entrances and three exits n from the overpass, South Main and Commerce streets.

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“Most of the businesses I’ve talked to complain that they lose business because of parking,” Balmer said. “We think it’s the perfect place.”

DBA President Andy Damiani, a long-time vocal advocate of a downtown-parking garage, urged the group to support the resolution.

“It makes available other places where it’s really needed down the street,” he said.

Damiani said the location n about 1.5 acres n could accommodate up to 500 cars. He said he would like to see a structure like in Norfolk where the ground level would be shops and parking would be on the second, third and fourth levels.

Damiani told the group that a decision on the South Main Street site should not impact purported plans for the city to construct a parking garage near the Mills Godwin Courthouse.

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Philips Ferguson said he could not support a parking structure without knowing whether it would be or free or paid parking, noting that paid parking “changes the dynamic of what we have downtown.”

Ross Boone made the motion to adopt the resolution, saying two urban design consultants had stressed the need for more downtown parking and that the city needs to act on the recommendation if downtown is to move forward.

Cypress Borough Councilman Charles Brown, who attended Wednesday’s meeting to learn more about the proposal, said he’s been talking with business people about the parking situation and that it’s something city council will have to study.

Brown said he plans to recommend the city have Ray Gindroz of Urban Design Associates assess the site and see if it suits the area’s needs.

“It’s important that we listen to them (business owners) and work together as much as possible,” he said. “These people have come to the city and made an investment, and we need to make it as easy for them as we can to succeed.”

Damiani had a petition supporting the parking proposal available at the meeting for DBA members to sign. He said it will be presented to city council.