Blue Ridge, Ga. – At their regular monthly meeting held on Tuesday, Nov. 13 the Blue Ridge City Council voted to move forward with the possibility of adding more parking spaces in the downtown area.
The idea of adding parking to the existing location of Blue Ridge City Hall, located on West First Street, is not a new one, but Kevin Whipple, a principal architect with CSC Design, Inc., introduced a fresh look at Blue Ridge’s long standing parking issue.
Whipple along with Reid Dyer, Vice President of Hayes, James and Associates, Inc., proposed a multi-phase concept that when completed would bring the total number of parking spaces on the property from 48 to 246 including 17 on street parking sites.
“You currently have 48 parking spaces on the property right now, phase one will increase that for an additional 60, so you will have 108 parking spaces on the property,” Whipple said as he presented city council with diagrams of the proposal.
Phase one of the project would require the removal of the green space currently on the Depot Street side of the property. This area would then be turned into numerous parking spots. The phase also including adding a few spots to the back corner of the property closest to the location of the Senior Center.
The initial proposal of this phase included the addition of public restrooms to one side of the City Hall building. After discussing with council, however, the options of restrooms in this area was put on hold.
Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramps would be required to access these restrooms. With the lay of the land in the area having a significant slope, adhering to ADA standards would be difficult to achieve.
It was originally thought that a parking deck could eventually be built in this newly designed area. Dyer pointed out, however, that there were too many utilities located below ground (sewer, storm drainage, power) for this to be a viable option.
A parking deck was not ruled out as Whipple and Dyer presented phase two of the proposed parking concept.
“This phase would include us taking the road. The road between here and the senior center,” Whipple said presenting the second phase.
According to Whipple by taking the street, the City of Blue Ridge would be able to add numerous parking spaces on ground level and open up the option of adding a second story parking deck over this area.
Parking on ‘ground level’ would have a single entry point from West First Street and would allow access to all parking spaces around City Hall. Parking for the ‘second level’ would have a single entry and exit point located on West Second Street.
This single entry/exit point will have many benefits according to Whipple and Dyer. The lay of the land behind city hall, being a rising hill, is a natural elevation ideal for creating this second level. Whipple also pointed out that it could be used as a secure parking area for all visitors who are partaking in a trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, and suggested that riders of the train be given a parking pass and only those with passes would be able to access this second level.
“One of the biggest issues for parking decks is internal circulation,” Whipple stated of the unconventional approach to the parking deck and the separate entries for the two levels. “The ramps, you’ll lose a lot of parking”
After the phase two completion, a total of 246 (including 17 spaces available on Depot Street) parking spaces would be created for public use.
Members of the Blue Ridge City Council had many questions concerning the project including how storm water runoff would be handled, but with the design being in its concept stage more research would need to be done to come up with solutions and costs.
“This isn’t what I had envisioned, but I love it,” Council-member Rhonda Haight was the first to speak up about the proposal.
Haight complimented how the design incorporated the use of the natural slant of the land. Mayor Donna Whitener agreed with Haight and pointed out that its structure would be less intrusive at the City Hall property.
Haight motioned to grant permission for more research to be completed on the project, and Council-member Nathan Fitz made a second. The council voted unanimously to move forward.
In the meantime the City of Blue Ridge has extended the arrangement with Blue Ridge Hotel, LLC. to continue to use property on West Main Street for paid public parking. The extension will last through Dec. 2018.
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