A parking garage in Frisco? Not yet, but officials are looking to head off congestion before it starts
March 30, 2018
Frisco doesn't have a parking problem — yet.
That's the conclusion of town officials, business owners and respondents to a recent survey conducted by Frisco's community development department.
But with a slate of downtown developments in the works, including Foote's Rest Plaza and Hotel and the Ten Mile Music Hall, many in town are concerned with Main Street's ability to absorb greater parking demand.
There are other factors to consider as well, including Frisco's steadily rising visitor numbers, increasingly popular summer season and the growing popularity of its special events.
“I think there are definitely some smaller things we can do to at least try to move people around town better and move cars around town better.”Deborah ShanerFrisco Town Councilwoman
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"Now's the time to start talking about it," said homeowner Woody Van Gundy during an hour-and-a-half long town council work session on the topic Tuesday evening. "Now's the time to start trying to identify these things before it becomes a real problem."
Mark Sabatini, one of the people who developed the West Frisco Gateway Center at the end of Main Street, concurred.
"History kind of tells us why we're here," he said. "When we developed the Gateway Center, we added 20 percent more parking than was required at the time. I thought that was nuts … but we are now, at times, fully parked during the day. So the future is right now."
Town staff recently conducted an informal survey of 50 people on Main Street, achieving a roughly even split of locals, business owners and visitors. Slightly less than half the respondents said the town does not have a parking problem, but half of those people said that it soon would.
"There's a lot of concern about how future development will impact parking," community development director Joyce Allgaier said. "The projects people hear about or see under construction definitely have them thinking about parking."
Parking became a focal point of the opposition to the Foote's Rest Project, which was approved by the town council in January. While the ambitious hotel and restaurant project is up to code on parking, some were concerned that its patrons would still swallow up too many Main Street spaces.
The controversy over the project's approval was a driving factor behind Tuesday's meeting, as some on council vowed to take a fresh look at the parking issue.
What was clear from the session, which included input from a group of longtime locals, business owners and town staff, was that just about everything is on the table.
"The general consensus around the industry and with everyone who's looked at this is we can't build our way out of parking problems," town manager Randy Ready said. "Any town that's tried to do that has failed miserably."
The town council seemed unenthusiastic about a parking garage, at least any time soon. Instead, members seemed more inclined to pluck some low hanging fruit while it's still available — and before the situation demands drastic and unpopular measures like Breckenridge's paid parking.
"I think there are definitely some smaller things we can do to at least try to move people around town better and move cars around town better," Councilwoman Deborah Shaner said.
That might include simply enforcing the two-hour parking limit on Main Street, a rule that goes largely unbidden by employees of local businesses and some skiers who use spaces as park-and-ride spots for Summit Stage buses. "I think this needs to be the last winter where you can park all day on Main Street, whether its skier parking or otherwise," Councilman Hunter Mortensen said. "It's a little silly that we've got very nice two-hour parking signs all up and down Main Street but they've never been enforced."
The town owns two large empty lots that could be leveraged for more parking spaces, but there are complications for both.
The town purchased the Sabatini lot on the corner of Granite Street and Third Avenue in the 1990s with parking in mind, but it's mostly been used for snow storage.
Paving and striping the Sabatini lot could provide dozens of parking spaces, but the prime real estate is also being considered for workforce housing, perhaps an even more pressing need for the town.
The town owns another empty lot in the Frisco Bay Marina, but it already sees heavy day use during the summer from kayakers and recreation path users. Still, it could eventually be useful as a lot for employees of local businesses.
Frisco isn't poised for any major projects to tackle parking yet, but the modest changes being considered could go a long way toward heading off bigger problems down the road.
"We want to look at not just existing but also future needs," Allgaier said. "Let's not just build for today but solve for and plan for the future … We should be looking down the road 20-30 years."
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