HARRISONBURG — City staff will be hosting a public forum to discuss improving downtown parking in the future.

DESMAN, the consultant, will also be at the forum at 6 p.m. on Aug. 28 to help answer any questions the public has along with the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

DESMAN is a national firm that conducts parking studies throughout the country and has looked into upcoming steps to improve parking efficiency in the city. Both DESMAN and HDR have been a partner in the overall study.

The study began in June when city staff began looking into what changes are needed to best utilize downtown parking.

The last study was conducted in 2009.

Director of Public Works Tom Hartman said in a prior interview that the projects will be split between short-term solutions, which will take up to three years; midterm projects, which take three to six years; and long-term projects, which have a window of six to 10 years for completion.

The upcoming forum is an ongoing part of the study.

At the forum, which will take place at the Ice House at the Outreach and Engagement, MSC 6096, there will be a presentation at the beginning of the evening, followed by an open house where city officials and DESMAN can discuss the issue of downtown parking and answer questions, according to a city press release.

Along with the forum, a survey is available to take regarding downtown parking at www.harrisonburgva.gov.

Graphics will be available to show the existing parking conditions.

“They won’t be presenting any proposed changes at this time,” director of communications Michael Parks said. “There will be a brief presentation discussing the process and how we got to where we are in the study at this point, then an opportunity for people to speak with staff about their thoughts, wishes, experiences, etc.”

With the downtown changing since the last study a decade ago with more commercial spaces, the Ice House and Urban Exchange expansions, a new study and public engagement is a way to find out what changes will suit the city’s residents, businesses and tourism traffic.

This is the first forum that has been held regarding the downtown parking study.

Hartman said in June that meetings will go through October.

“It is important that we get citizen involvement on a project like this because we need to know what people like and don’t like about visiting downtown,” Parks said

He said the city wants to create a situation where visitors feel comfortable going downtown and want to go back.

“And having adequate, reliable parking and easy walkability is key to that,” Parks said.

By late October, city staff and DESMAN will have identified all potential options recommended through the survey and meetings and will have a final public forum.

Parks said final recommendations are expected by the end of this year or early next year.

Although the study is in the works, other projects have taken place such as changes to the Water Street and Elizabeth Street parking decks.

The permit parking and 10-hour spaces in both downtown parking decks were changed to restrict the permit parking users from filling up the 10-hour spaces.

On the Water Street parking deck, the east section of permit parking was changed to 10-hour parking. The permit parking in the western section remains. The change resulted in 73 lower deck spaces and 58 upper spaces. There are 79 10-hour spaces available.

The Elizabeth Street deck had permit parking moved to the lower level and 10-hour parking moved to the second level.

Parks said the city has had feedback regarding the signage, including that some visitors weren’t familiar with the changes, which may have resulted in some tickets.

“We’ve worked to make sure people are aware that they need to check the signage around where they park to assure they are in the correct spot,” Parks said. “But that feedback will definitely be considered as part of this study.”

Contact Laine Griffin at 574-6286 or lgriffin@dnronline.com. Follow Laine on Twitter @laine_griffDNR

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