Poulsbo considering downtown parking garage

POULSBO — King Olaf parking lot is a likely site for a parking garage in downtown Poulsbo, though discussions surrounding the project remain hypothetical and a funding source remains unknown.

Were the project to move forward, it could potentially change financing plans for the new city hall.

The city of Poulsbo’s Downtown Parking Advisory Committee batted several ideas Wednesday regarding a parking garage, but they concluded only that there is a measurable need for more parking downtown.

Business owners suggest more parking is needed immediately, while others predict more parking will be essential in the near future.

“There’s very much interest — some passionate interest — in a parking garage,” said committee chair Jeff Bauman, also a member of city council.

There have been no bids for a parking garage design, but Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson guessed the project could cost between $3 million and $6 million.

The King Olaf parking lot, which sits between Front Street and Jensen Avenue, abutting the current city hall, was discussed as being the most promising and most cost-effective location. The current city hall property is for sale with a price tag of $1.25 million, and the funds from the sale will help pay for the city’s new $15.8 million home. But the property includes a small portion of land on its west side that may be necessary to build a parking garage at King Olaf. If the property were to be re-listed without that section it could be less desirable to buyers, and if it were purchased it would likely go for a slightly lower price.

There is no current interest in the property, and the city council would need to grant final approval if an offer were made, Erickson said.

King Olaf lot’s natural 15-foot incline would make it easy to create entrances to a two-story structure from both Jensen Way and Front Street, said architect Wayne LaMont. King Olaf currently holds 111 cars; a two-story parking garage there could feasibly hold double that number.

Other sites under consideration are the current police station site at Front Street and Third Avenue and the land currently owned by the post office at Jensen Way and Iverson Street.

Discussions regarding a parking garage are often paired with potential new uses for Anderson Parkway, the city’s main waterfront lot, which could be redeveloped.

Anderson Parkway is fullest from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays, when more than 90 percent of the lot is occupied, according to a 2008 parking study. Between noon and 2 p.m. the lot is completely full. It is slightly less busy on the weekends.

In a June 23 letter to citizens, Erickson explained recent parking violators in Anderson Parkway, some of whom left their vehicles in the lot for days or weeks, caused the city to begin enforcing the lot every day from 3-6 a.m. That is the only time the city dedicates police officers to enforce Anderson Parkway’s three-hour limit, Erickson said. So far, police have issued 50 tickets.

The city is also installing new parking signs downtown designed to direct more cars to King Olaf.

The city has established new parking in the downtown corridor recently: several new parking spots were added to Front Street last year, and the new city hall at Moe Street and Third Avenue includes 75 new parking spaces, though only 43 of those will be available to the public during weekdays. Fifty-nine of the spaces will be open to public on nights and weekends.

Most committee members agreed a parking garage would still be useful, and many said they would be willing to pay for a safe, well-lit parking spot downtown if parking in the garage weren’t free.

Committee member Craig Hammond said he no longer advertises for his downtown business, Bayside Engravers, because patrons who respond to those ads find no place to park. Tammy Mattson, who sits on the committee and owns Tizley’s Europub downtown, said she hears similar complaints from patrons.

Representatives from the Sons of Norway and Martha & Mary said both institutions are in favor of a parking garage, but can’t contribute significant financing. Land owned by Martha & Mary may be available for an easement, according to an email from Martha & Mary Chief Executive Chad Solvie to Bauman.

Funding for a parking garage could come from a variety of sources: user revenues, a local improvement district or other form of financing from downtown landowners, bonding or a public-private partnership. Committee members have yet to discuss which funding sources are most viable.

Dale Rudolph, a committee member and city councilman, said he isn’t sure his constituents would want the city to spend its money on a new parking garage, and that they might prefer it used elsewhere.

Committee member and Port of Poulsbo commissioner Tony DeCarlo said he sees a parking garage as an addition to downtown that could be necessary a decade from now, but not necessarily today.

“The only time you have a real parking issue is on special occasions,” he said.

Bainbridge Island resident Dan Hudson chastised the port for not putting more weight on the parking issue for the sake of its liveaboards. He also said visiting boaters often have no place to leave their cars in Poulsbo, so they don’t port there.

The Port of Poulsbo offers more than 260 permanent slips and just 15 parking spots, but the port is not required to provide parking for tenants.

“It’s the time,” Hudson said, of increased parking. “We need to do it. We need to quit fooling around.”

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