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The Danville Industrial Authority voted unanimously Thursday morning to create 30 public parking spaces in a lot located between First Citizens Bank and the former Downtowner Motor Inn on Main Street.
City officials believe the spaces will provide relief for citizens who shop in that section of the River District.
Additional means of relief will be addressed following completion of a parking study for the River District. The study began this week, and consultants expect to complete it in six weeks.Thursday’s vote by the IDA to create 30 parking spaces came after seven members of Danville City Council attended the meeting and voiced support for the move.
The IDA purchased the privately owned lot last year during demolition of the Downtowner. To create the 30 spaces, the IDA will need to use about 15 feet of space of the Downtowner lot. Any decision on the use of the remainder of the Downtowner lot, which features a steep drop in grade, will be postponed until completion of the parking study.
“I don’t think we need to make a major decision on the use of the lower lot at this time,” IDA Chairman Richard Turner said during the meeting. “Maybe it needs to sit there for a while longer.”
The future use of the Downtowner lot has been subject of considerable debate. City Manager Joe King noted, “Passions are strong on this (topic) – park vs. parking. Proceed with the 30 spaces (on the upper lot), but you are better advised to wait for the parking study before making a decision on the lower lot.”
With Thursday’s vote, city officials will draft specifications and seek bids on the construction. That process will take eight to 10 weeks, with construction beginning in late April or early May. The lot could be ready for use in late June or early July.
The money to pay for construction will come from the budget used for demolition of the Downtowner. The demolition project was nearly a yearlong process that began 13 months ago with removal of asbestos. Demolition took place during the summer. The project ended with construction of a retaining wall and grading in the fall and early winter.
The Downtowner was constructed in 1963 at the corner of Main and Union streets, which at the time was Danville’s busiest intersection. The seven-story hotel featured 116 rental rooms, including a rooftop penthouse, and 15 meeting rooms. Two eight-passenger elevators served the building. The Main Street entrance led to a restaurant, a nightclub and commercial tenant spaces. An underground area was set aside for valet parking.
The building closed in 1986. Because of its high visibility and the more than two decades that it stood empty, the building became a focal point for blight eradication and redevelopment in the River District.
In addition to demolition of the Downtowner, a streetscape project along Main Street began last year. The project features wider sidewalks, installation of brick pavers and creation of more visible and safer pedestrian crossings. It also will provide amenities such as outdoor café space, trees, benches and new lighting.
Land Planning & Design Associates designed the streetscape project. LPDA is a Virginia-based landscape architecture and planning consulting firm.
This firm also has drafted design concepts for the future use of the Downtowner lot. LPDA presented those concepts Thursday to the IDA board and members of City Council in attendance.
The concepts offered options for parking and a green space park.
“There could be infinite variations of these options,” King said. “Let’s put them on the shelf and wait for the parking study.”
On Wednesday night, the city held a public forum to outline the scope of the parking study, introduce the consultants conducting the study, and allow citizens to share their ideas and concerns.
The city selected LPDA and Carl Walker Inc. as consultants for the study. Carl Walker Inc. is an engineering and parking consulting firm that has clients nationwide. The company has eight offices across the nation, including offices in Atlanta.
The study not only will address current parking conditions, but it will help the city to plan how best to meet future parking needs.
The consultants will inventory and analyze the parking situation, and then present their findings and recommend strategies and goals to address key questions.
Key questions include what are the current parking resources and how they are being used, what does the future hold and how can the city plan to meet parking needs and manage those needs.
The study will look at the expected patterns of new development, the likely mix of new construction vs. re-use of existing buildings, and how the dynamics will change over time.