More parking to be had in downtown Kent

With construction halted on a half-built parking garage, city of Kent officials will add 11 new parking spots within the next few weeks along West Harrison Street to give shoppers and diners better access to downtown businesses.

Left to right: Mark Burns

Council OKs change to code

With construction halted on a half-built parking garage, city of Kent officials will add 11 new parking spots within the next few weeks along West Harrison Street to give shoppers and diners better access to downtown businesses.

The City Council voted 6-0 May 6 to adopt an ordinance changing the city parking code to allow additional parking on West Harrison Street between Second Avenue North and Fourth Avenue North. Parking will be free with a two-hour limit.

“Anything they can do will help the downtown core, especially for the Meeker Street merchants,” said Sue Froyd, owner of Maggie’s on Meeker restaurant.

Froyd said her restaurant has not seen a reduction in customers because of a lack of parking, but the shortage of spaces has been noticed.

“But we hear complaints,” Froyd said. “And if we have more parking, we might have more business.”

The Kent Downtown Partnership asked city officials about two months ago to look into adding parking spots on West Harrison Street, said Mike Miller, a Downtown Partnership board member and senior vice president of Valley Bank, which is located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Meeker Street.

“The biggest reason is we wanted to create additional parking for the businesses on Harrison and the businesses on Meeker,” Miller said. “We’ve been really hurting for parking along here.”

City crews are expected to paint the parking spots and add related signage within the next few weeks, said Tim LaPorte, city deputy public works director. West Harrison Street runs parallel to West Smith and West Meeker Streets.

“Due to the prolonged disruption of the parking-garage construction, the Kent Downtown Partnership asked us to review the parking zone until the garage is completed to allow additional parking,” LaPorte told the Council before its vote, referring to the half-built parking facility at Fourth and West Smith.

That 350-stall facility has sat idle since May 2007, when contractors walked off the project after not being paid by Plan B Development, of Bellevue, run by Ben Errez. The lender cut off funds to Errez’s development company because the project went over budget.

The garage was intended to be part of the first phase of a proposed $40 million project that would have included condominiums, retail stores and a hotel.

City officials remained uncertain this week as to how soon a new developer might take over the project. Centurion Financial Group of Kirkland – the lender on the project – the contractors and Plan B Development continue to fight over payments for work on the project. Swinerton Builders of Washington is the primary contractor.

“The parties are still locked up in litigation,” Ben Wolters, the city’s economic development director, said Wednesday. “The lender, contractors and subcontractors continue to negotiate to resolve who gets paid what and when and how much they are owed.”

City officials originally removed parking spots along the north side of West Harrison Street in anticipation of Errez building a hotel, although that plan is now in cold storage.

“Delivery vehicles needed a route to get in and out and Harrison Street was the route,” LaPorte said explaining the original plan. “And there would be parking in the structure for the lost parking.”

When a new developer completes the parking garage, the new parking spots along West Harrison Street will be removed.

“It’s temporary until someday someone takes over the garage,” LaPorte said.

The city Public Works Committee recommended at its May 5th meeting that the Council revise the parking code along West Harrison Street.

“I want to thank the Public Works Committee for moving this along quickly,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson said at the meeting. “There’s a buzz out there that we are going to help the downtown merchants.”

City traffic engineers looked at whether to turn West Harrison Street into a one-way street in an effort to create more parking spots with the addition of angled parking spots. But a two-way street with parallel parking allowed for the most spots, LaPorte said.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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