Close up of a parking meter and cars parked behind it

City leaders have said trying to find parking in the Short North, even during peak hours, is a First World problem.

“I do agree that this is a First World problem, but parking is emotional because it affects you every day. It is a quality of life issue,” says Robert Ferrin the city’s assistant director for Parking Services. “There are people who are absolutely unhappy with this. Everyone looks at success differently.”

But tell that to long-time Short North and surrounding neighborhood homeowners who are planning to live in their home a lifetime.

Short North homeowners, feeling the squeeze of gentrification, say our city government, which has long been sold-out to high-end developers, made a bad parking problem even worse by not pushing back against a decade of overdevelopment.

“The community isn’t being listened too,” says Kevin Truitt, who’s owned his home on 3rd Avenue since 2011. “Instead, the city is thinking, ‘How can we develop the Short North? How can we benefit the developers?’ The parking problem is one element of this and the residents who have actually lived in the neighborhood for years are being tossed aside.”

After years of planning and over $500,000 spent on parking studies, here comes the city’s Short North Parking Plan, just a few days old and unproven.

Perhaps Short North developer and property manager Lykens Companies said it best on their web site: “The solution is complex. What is clear, however, there is no clear winner or loser with the new parking plan.”

But the answer is crystal clear for many Short North residents. They told the Free Press the new plan gives them a cold shoulder as it sneaks a hand into their pocket seeking revenue for the city.

One of the plan’s key solutions is mobile payment-only parking zones where visitors have to pay through the ParkColumbus app, while residents are required to purchase a permit through a cumbersome parking portal, which is off to an auspicious start after crashing.

Residents are guaranteed a parking spot (of course), but not guaranteed the spot in front of their own home. Each home built before 2009 is allowed two permits, so that third or fourth family member or roommate is out of luck.

Truitt says also consider how residents are allowed a single one-year guest pass for $25 and 300 one-day passes for $6 each.

“When you want to use a one-day guest pass, you give the code to your guest. When they arrive they need to log onto ParkColumbus, select the zone they are parked in, enter the guest validation code and pay $6. They are good for 24 hours,” says Truitt. “This is so ridiculous just for friends and family members to park near my house. I guess I just won’t have visitors.”

Truitt and other homeowners say the city had opportunities to solve parking for the Short North, Italian Village and Victorian Village. Instead the city and its Department of Development have mismanaged the problem by prioritizing high-end development over neighborhood sustainability. Worse, the city has allowed their pet developers to do as they please.

Take the Pizzuti Companies, which built the bougie La Méridien Columbus (also called The Joseph) at 620 N. High Street. The city permanently closed a metered parking lot adjacent to this address to appease Pizzuti’s plan for the boutique hotel which opened in 2015.

True, the property also came with a 313-space parking garage with some spaces open to the public. But again the Lykens Companies states it best on their website: “For every parking spot added to the Short North, it feels like there are two more cars competing for space.” 

Indeed, before Pizzuti Companies built the boutique hotel they were given millions from a city TIF (taxpayer financing) to build a parking garage with the property to include 200 to 300 public spaces. But what Channel 10 WBNS news found at the time was that not only did they receive the taxpayer TIF money, but also won a variance or waiver from Columbus City Council to build fewer public spots then city law mandated.

Fueling overdevelopment in the Short North are other city tax abatements which have taken millions away from Columbus City Schools.

And without further ado we have the city bowing to Ron Pizzuti once again. In 2017 Columbus City County voted 6-0 to give Pizzuti Companies the city’s 10-year, 75 percent property tax-abatement worth $3.1 million for their mixed-use development at 873 N. High Street.

Ron Pizutti has Columbus City Council under his spell and growth is out of control in the Short North, you get the idea. This past summer four high-end mixed-use properties opened adding hundreds of new apartments along with thousands-of-square feet of office and commercial space.

More is on the way, including Market Tower, a 40-story Godzilla planned above and connected to the North Market, thus devouring more of the Short North’s soul.

In 2005 a Short North parking study showed a deficit of 3,200 spaces during peak times. The study recommended the city build a multi-level parking garage even if an eye-sore and parking ramps in general are not profitable real estate.

The city and developers have partnered to build several garages but as mentioned they are shared and don’t offer enough capacity for the public.

Ferrin, the city’s “parking czar”, says more public/private garages are on the way. The new plan, however, is very much focused on making efficient use out of on-street parking, which there is plenty of, but was mismanaged and underutilized, he says.

They tried to strike a balance between residents, their guests, visitors and those who work in the Short North.

“This is very much an exercise in sharing,” says Ferrin, adding this plan is not set in stone.

“We will continue to re-evaluate this plan. Over the summer we will be evaluating the data we’ve gathered, the feedback we’ve gathered from folks, and we will be modifying it. Whether we decrease rates, increase rates, change time frames. We are completely open to doing these things because parking like the transportation system is ever evolving and not static,” he says.

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