If nothing else, the new downtown parking enforcement in Fairmont should spark some fresh thinking about the health of downtown. Surely, it cannot be "the parking issue" alone that contributes to the vitality, or lack thereof, in this four-block stretch of retail and service businesses.
We note first and foremost the strange phenomenon of the absentee landlord, who seems neither interested in leasing his property nor in fixing it up. Several buildings simply sit idle, year in and year out. It's almost as if the owners enjoy the eyesore they have created. Can more be done to change this?
Then there are the existing businesses. Some are more active than others in terms of what they contribute to downtown. Surely, everyone could consider more participation in downtown association meetings, as well as group promotions and marketing. Perhaps they could consider uniform hours. Extended hours? Storefront improvements through the city's revolving loan fund. And other things to make their businesses places worth walking to, even when a nearby parking spot can't be found.
Employees who work downtown - along with visitors - now face $25 fines for parking more than two hours. But this may simply spark a game of "move-the-car" every hour and a half. We hope employees will be courteous to their neighbors and help create a welcoming atmosphere for shoppers. However, the city is not helping much.
In the city lot behind the Sentinel, El Agave and Human Services, most of the parking spaces are leased. This hardly seems fair to employees wishing to get their cars off Downtown Plaza. Likewise, side streets fall under the two-hour limit. Why? Wouldn't it suffice to open up Downtown?Plaza? And why does the two-hour zone extend to Park Street? In other words, why is the city compounding the inconvenience for employees, renters and others who - in our opinion - deserve some respect for the things they contribute to downtown.
In the end, it seems to us there are things different folks could do to improve the future of downtown while also alleviating the parking woes, on both sides of the issue. We hope others share in the view that things are not well settled as they now stand.