GREENFIELD — It’s a problem downtown merchants say hurts their business, that residents complain keeps them from visiting the heart of the city.
Studies suggest there’s ample space for visitors to park in downtown Greenfield, but city leaders say business owners’ complaints have prompted them to investigate the issue further — and they agree the areas set aside for visitors are too hard to find, which could negatively impact business and tourism in the area.
City officials are preparing to spend roughly $5,600 to purchase wayfinder signage for the area, hoping the small investment will draw more residents and visitors to businesses as officials ramp up an effort to revitalize downtown.
For years, residents, visitors and merchants have complained about downtown parking. Some shop owners say customers are deterred from local storefronts, and residents say they do their business elsewhere for the ease of getting around, officials said.
Now, as city officials work to revitalize the area by encouraging more people to visit, shop and eat near the intersection of Main and State streets, some say downtown won’t thrive if it’s a hassle to find parking.
While there are more than 1,000 public parking spaces within the downtown redevelopment area, there’s no cohesive signage guiding locals and visitors to public parking, said city planner Joanie Fitzwater.
While there are roughly 700 on-street parking spots, there are only 384 spaces in public parking lots. Comparatively, there are about 650 spots in private parking lots.
It’s difficult for drivers to decipher which lots are public and which are private, Fitzwater said.
More than a year and a half ago, Tammy McKnight, owner of Red Banana, which occupies storefronts in downtown Greenfield and Fortville, approached city officials about installing signs directing traffic, she said.
Often, customers to her boutique tell her they had a hard time finding parking. It’s not just out-of-towners; residents struggle with the problem, too, McKnight said.
“It has definitely impacted my business in a negative way,” McKnight said. “This will help all businesses to help our customers enjoy what downtown Greenfield has to offer.”
Fitzwater said many downtowns experience similar struggles with parking — people don’t believe there are enough spaces.
People want to park and see the place they’re visiting, but in downtown areas, they typically have to park around a corner and walk.
The signs the city is installing will match, making them easy to spot, and they’ll be marked “public,” to indicate the lot is open.
It will take only a few weeks for the signs to be made, and the street department will install them as soon as possible, weather permitting, Fitzwater said.