Solutions to parking woes considered

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 1999

New Natchez Downtown Development Association Director Tammi Mullins took a walk downtown with Police Chief Willie Huff Thursday morning.

The main purpose of their tour was to discuss the downtown parking problem – and possible solutions.

&uot;Basically what we want to do is get everyone on the same page as far as parking is concerned,&uot; Huff said.

Email newsletter signup

Huff said both the police department and NDDA would rather solve the problem with education than enforcement – but will try to notify habitual offenders.

&uot;Most of the problem lies with business owners and employees taking up the spaces,&uot; Mullins said.

Mullins wants to make those people aware of public parking lots downtown. There are three public lots – one off the 200 block of Main Street, one off Rankin and Jefferson streets and one behind Kimbrell’s Office Supply on Main Street.

&uot;A lot of the public parking areas are not being utilized,&uot; Mullins said.

Among the possible solutions are raising the overtime parking fine – it’s $3 now – and educating business owners about the public parking lots.

Another option is to give permits to downtown apartment dwellers who don’t have offstreet parking that would exempt them from the parking time limits, Huff said.

A police department parking monitor works downtown to check the two-hour parking spaces, giving tickets to those that exceed the limit.

Tickets are not given to visitors outside the city’s shopping area, which Huff said includes Adams and surrounding counties, as well as Concordia Parish.

Another problem may simply be perception: Mullins said potential downtown customers sometimes circle the block if they don’t find a parking space directly in front of a business.

&uot;Then they go to the mall and park a quarter of a mile away,&uot; she said, &uot;yet they won’t park around the corner.

&uot;When it’s nice weather, it’s great to park a block away and walk.&uot;

One-of-a-Kind owner Mary Lees Wilson said she parks in front of her business on Main Street in order to unload merchandise. She said she can’t often use the alley near her business to unload boxes, and doesn’t see any easy solutions to the problem.

&uot;If it was an easy answer I guess we’d have it solved by now,&uot; Wilson said.

Wilson said a parking garage, shuttle bus or diagonal parking spaces could help – but knows all of those probably cost too much money for the city.

Wilson acknowledged that when customers can’t find places to park downtown, it hurts businesses.

Elaine Daniels, owner of Daniels’ Basketry on Main Street, said educating business owners and office workers could help ease the parking problem.

She said all business owners – not just merchants – should realize that the parking spaces are needed for shoppers. &uot;The bottom line is their business depends on other the businesses in Natchez,&uot; she said.

The downtown parking situation could change in about 18 months: The convention center is scheduled to open in spring 2001.

No separate parking is scheduled to be built for the convention center itself, but a proposed hotel across the street would have parking. Huff said city officials hope other area hotels would provide transportation for their patrons who use the convention center.

Ironically, Huff said Natchez may be lucky to have a parking problem downtown – because it means people are shopping at home. &uot;It’s refreshing to have a parking problem,&uot; he said. &uot;Some cities don’t have any parking downtown.&uot;