Big changes are coming to the Oregon District.
Soon, visitors will have to pay to park in two popular parking lots in the Oregon District, which are currently free.
A metered parking lot system will be set up for the lot behind Ned Peppers, and the lot on Fifth Street used primarily by the Environmental Protection Agency employees and for Salar Restaurant and Lounge's valet parking, according to Amelia O'Dowd, president of the Oregon District Business Association, and Natalie Skilliter, a member of that board's parking committee.
The pair discussed the shift yesterday at a meeting of the Oregon Historic District Society Board of Trustees. They noted that Salar's valet service will have use of another lot.
Trustee board president Katie Earnhart Joseph said research will be conduct to determine options for the residential area of the Oregon District, which is separated from the business district. This reporter is a member of the board of trustees.
O'Dowd said parking is at a premium in cities around the nation. She offered the Short North District in Columbus as an example.
"This is the way that cities across America are going," O'Dowd said of paid parking during a follow up interview today. "This is a sign of how valuable downtown is becoming."
Patrons will be able to park in the lots for $3 for up to 8 hours after entering their license plate number into a machine.
At least initially, no penalty will be applied to those who park in the lot overnight.
The lots will be managed by ABM, which will provide security. That company operated the district's short-lived shuttle service.
"It will be cleaner and it will be brighter," O'Dowd said of the lots.
Operated by Ned Peppers owner Jim Schaefer, the parking lot behind Ned Peppers has been the site of several car break-ins and other criminal activity over the years. O'Dowd said that Schaefer has expressed that the change is in response to increased development in the area, and that his customers often cannot find parking in his lot due to customers from other businesses using it.
Upgrades will be made to the parking lot at Jackson Street and Wayne Avenue and the lot at Gate Street and Jackson. They will transformed into paid lots in the coming months as well, O'Dowd and Skilliter said.
"We are just hoping to reach a solution that benefits everyone," Skilliter said.
O'Dowd said other major changes will come to the district in months to come with the addition of Troll Pub Under the Bridge.
The Louisville-based business plans open a 250-seat bar and restaurant in the vacant Weustoff and Getz Co. building, 210 Wayne Ave., as part of the effort to extend the Oregon District.
Schaefer's decision has caused discussion of parking in the district in general and how it can serve all involved, O'Dowd said. A message was left for Schaefer, who is out of the area according to a member of his staff. Questions were sent to Jeffrey Russell of ABM.
She said other Oregon District parking lot owners are considering becoming paid lots as well.