Manitou shifts into high gear to solve parking woes

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Anyone who’s ever visited Manitou Springs on a sunny weekend knows it can be an art form to find parking.

This dilemma has been an ongoing topic of debate and discussion for years. Several years ago, a review by a consultant underscored the need for change.

Now that time has arrived.

Manitou’s Economic Development Committee has hired Casey Jones of Place and Plexus Consulting Inc. of Longmont, Colo., as a contractor and consultant to make recommendations to the Parking Authority Board.

At the same time, construction is now under way on the Smischny Lot at 1134 Manitou Ave. It would be the city’s third lot. The city also owns a lot on Canon Avenue and another next to the Stagecoach Inn.

A building on the new 42-space lot is being demolished. The plan calls for the lot to be completed by Memorial Day weekend — the official start of the tourist season.

The new parking lot will be asphalt, with “state-of-the-art” parking kiosks.

“It will be the Taj Mahal of parking lots, with stone walls and a wrought-iron fence to match the architecture of the downtown area,” said Dave Symonds, board member of the EDC and president of the Metropolitan Parking District board.

Finding a space to park in Manitou can be tricky.

Finding a space to park in Manitou can be tricky.

Manitou’s newest lot won’t be enough, however, to solve the city’s parking issues.

And finding the right solution won’t be easy.

“It’s kind of like a tube of toothpaste: if you squeeze it, it’s going to come out somewhere else,” Symonds said. “If you charge for parking on the avenue, then visitors will take up parking in the residential areas.”

Jones is well aware of that, saying his recommendations to the EDC will aim to balance the needs of visitors, employees and residents.

Solutions that made sense 10 or 15 years ago, such as removing parking meters, are no longer viable, he said.

Manitou is now a busy and thriving town, with multiple events that draw thousands of visitors to the small town.

Yet two things are necessary for paid parking to be successful, Jones said.

It has to be fairly priced, and the value has to be evident.

“If you’re going to get that rock-star parking space, there will be a premium for that,” Jones said. “Or you may choose to park up the hill and get your exercise for the day.”

“Parking is just like a hotel,” he said. “That’s real estate being rented on a short-term basis.”

After their installation, the new kiosks in the city’s three public parking lots will accept merchant validations, coins, paper currency, credit or debit cards and smart cards. But that’s just the start.

Jones’s proposals to the city are likely to include residential- and employee-parking permit programs, and managed on- and off-street parking for visitors.

Possible solutions include shuttle service for employees and renting space on privately owned lots.

For instance, when people park at the mall, they pay higher prices at the mall stores.

“As consumers, we take our cues, make our decisions, based on price. Parking shouldn’t be any different,” Jones said.

“For a reasonable price, people will be willing to rent a parking space to come to a special place like Manitou. On the other hand, if they can’t gain access to a place they won’t come back.”

After Jones makes his recommendations to the parking board, the board must take its proposals to the city council for final approval.

Jones expects to be wrapped up with his job by July.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229.

2 Responses to Manitou shifts into high gear to solve parking woes

  1. Is it possible to construct a parking structure as a public-private partnership with a condo developer? I would consider an ideal parking solution to have a 3-level parking garage with liner retail on the first floor and liner condos above the retail. This way avid users may choose to purchase a condo/loft at the base of the incline and the public could utilize fitness-related retailers/restaurants at the ground level. The parking solution could be paid for with a combination of the developer of the condos and the City. How perfect would it to be able to purchase related items such as drinks/power bars, perhaps breakfast or an evening beer after finishing the incline (without having to drive)?

    John Olson
    May 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm

  2. Manitou is moving in the right direction. Improving the parking shows how the City is actively looking forward.

    Rolf Jacobson
    May 9, 2010 at 8:27 pm