By Matt Werner Times Sentinel Writer
Zionsville Times Sentinel
---- — The biggest takeaway from the Downtown Study Steering Committee’s first meeting was parking in the Village is more a problem of perception than of space.
Peter Lemmon, senior transportation engineer with TADI, shared results of a parking count with the committee during its Tuesday morning, Oct. 22, meeting.
“I did the counts block by block, saw how many cars were there and what the turnover was,” he said. “I noticed that some side streets were very under utilized. Once you got off Main Street, the streets weren’t heavily utilized, and there may be different reasons for that.”
According to Lemmon’s data, the peak time during a weekday was at noon when 63-percent of the 807 total parking spaces in downtown were full. Nearly 80-percent of the 402 public spaces are used during that time while only 47 percent of the private spaces were.
“Typically when you get above 85 percent is when you have a problem,” he said. “With how high the public parking is, there may be some inconvenience there at times, but overall, it’s not too bad. The Friendly lot was right around 85 percent capacity, and the lot north of that was right around 100 percent.”
Lemmon said the peak time for Saturday was at 10 a.m. while the farmers’ market was open. More than 60-percent of the public spaces were taken at that time, but only 39 percent of private parking was full.
“Most of the parking was focused on the southern end of Main Street and the lot north of the Friendly,” he said. “It definitely drops off after lunch. If you look at the evening, the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. hour was very busy. The public lots were about three-quarter full, but once again, the blocks off Main Street were very underutilized. This shows if people are willing to walk a block or two.”
Lemmon said the turnover ration for all the times was similar with most length of stay around two hours and a spot usually having a three cars per day.
“There is a perception that there isn’t enough parking,” he said. “We need to talk about where our parking is, and maybe working out an agreement with private lot owners to have public parking during those peak hours.”
Lemmon said that most people said finding a spot on a weekday was difficult.
“When you look at the data, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a problem,” he said. “People say that finding a spot is difficult, but if you go a block off Main Street, there is plenty of parking.”
Diane Williams, Business Districts, Inc., director, said the market for downtown is a strong market.
“The consumer expenditures for this market is around $326 million per year, which is very good,” she said. “The education levels are higher as well, which is good for your market.”
Williams said there were 901 responses to the consumer survey.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for very important subgroups,” she said. “There’s a lot of long-time residents, and we’ll be looking at certain behaviors. The biggest thing is that these results will tell us how people behave the way they do, but it will not tell us why people behave that way.”
The majority of the respondents were between the ages of 35 and 54.
“The results certainly skew toward the older age group in a good way,” she said. “When we skew that way, it captures the higher-spending cohorts.”
Williams said most of the respondents had lived in Zionsville more than 10 years.
Williams said there were a lot of opportunities for dining options in downtown with 26 percent of respondents dining in downtown Zionsville weekly and nearly 50 percent of respondents spending at least $75 per week on meals away from home.
“Given the diversity of types of restaurants people would like to see, there’s a lot of opportunities for a number of different restaurant formats,” she said. “The key takeaway is that there is a significant amount of people dining out regularly, which presents an opportunity in capturing additional dollars.”
As far as shopping in the downtown area, only 17 percent of people said they regularly shop in the downtown area while 55 percent shop in Boone Village and nearly 70 percent shop on the Michigan Road corridor.
“That was lower than I expected,” Williams said. “However, those two areas have grocery stores; so that skews the data.”
Committee Member Bob Goodman said the lack of a grocery store was a big reason the number was so low.
“We also have to factor in that there isn’t a big box store on the bricks, which is the way we want it,” he said. “Target will draw more than what we have. We need to find out how we can raise our number, but we won’t compete with a big box.”
Some of the top suggestions for a new store in Zionsville were specialty food, bakery, grocer and ice cream.
“I think a lot of these suggestions are for independent ownership that would translate very well to Main Street,” Williams said.
When evaluating the satisfaction with downtown, the top three factors people chose were the cleanliness of streets and sidewalks, the general attractiveness and general safety. The lowest two were hours and variety of shops.
“The most convenient times for people to shop were Saturday and Sunday,” Williams said. “There were also opportunities for early evening and late evening hours.”
Williams said she will dig further into the data and compare Zionsville to other communities such as Rochester, Mich.; Dublin, Ohio; and Glen Ellyn, Ill.; among other cities.
Committee Member Mark Plassman asked why no local communities were listed.
“I don’t want us to be like Carmel, but we’re going to be competing with them in our market,” he said.
Williams said she could add some to the list.
“We know each of the surrounding communities, and they all have a vision of where they want to go and how they want to get there,” she said. “This study is more about where Zionsville wants to go and how to get there quicker than those communities to leap frog them.”
The committee will hold a public open house where they will present the data and break down into small groups for discussion.
The open house will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the Town Hall Community Room, 1100 W. Oak St.