Parking pains continue to perplex downtown merchants

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Business is booming in the downtown area, but parking is a bust.

Mark Bravdica, general manager for Art Hardware Inc. on 32 S. Tejon St., said that’s the main reason for the store’s relocation.

“Our lease is up and we didn’t want to renew because we wanted (to move where there are) more parking spots,” he said. “That is what customer input has been and that’s what’s been affecting our business.”

High rent in the downtown area, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be a problem. In fact, Bravdica said he expects rents to be high.

“Colorado Springs is due that (rent increase),” he said. “Colorado Springs has done well in trying to attract people downtown, but a lot of retailers will be in and out because of overhead increase in rents.”

From a community standpoint, Bravdica said, businesses are paying fair prices for downtown locations and said the rent is still cheaper than Boulder and Denver.

Kelly Cares, owner of Scalabra on 32 E. Kiowa St., said her store is moving due to a change in ownership structure, as well as the lack of parking for customers.. Roger’s shoe store on 31 E. Tejon St. is moving into Scalabra’s former location.

“We’re expecting better parking,” said Kim Canon, part owner of Roger’s.

“But parking downtown isn’t good anyway.”

In the core of downtown, from Boulder Street south to Colorado Avenue and from Cascade Avenue east to Nevada Avenue, there are 900 metered parking spaces, said Greg Warnke, unit manager for the city’s parking system. He said he hopes to add 350 public parking spaces by the end of the year.

City Council recently approved a three- to four-level public parking structure to be built on the city parking lot at the intersection of Bijou Street and Cascade Avenue, just south of Couture’s Fabric Care.

If everything goes as planned, he said, he hopes to start the project in October.

“We know that parking is in short supply and in great demand,” said Warnke. “It (the new parking structure) will address the demand, but it won’t take care of the entire problem. The parking system is here to supply some parking for the public, but by no means can we supply all the parking downtown.”

The project is being financed through the $4.5 million in bonds sold by the city. After costs, fees and the acquisition of 5,200 square feet near the lot, Warnke said the city will work with about $4 million for the construction of the structure.

While this structure should alleviate some parking struggles, Warnke said businesses, if relocating to the downtown area, do need to be aware of the parking situation.

“When you develop downtown … businesses need to build adequate parking for your own needs, or make accommodations for parking,” he said. “We are supposed to supply parking for the public and not private enterprises.”