Fourth Ave. merchants debate meters' impact

City hasn't released details, but some worry about effect on customers, workers
2013-05-11T00:00:00Z 2013-05-11T16:12:51Z Fourth Ave. merchants debate meters' impactJoe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Merchants along North Fourth Avenue are adopting a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to city plans to install parking meters next year.

Many believe paid parking along Fourth was going to be an eventuality, with the installation of parking meters downtown, restricted on-street parking in nearby neighborhoods and infill projects gobbling up nearby parking lots used by employees.

For Donna DiFiore, the owner of Delectables restaurant, the issue isn't a new one.

"The whole parking question for our area has been a bone of contention for the 35 years I've been on Fourth Avenue," DiFiore said.

With no details available on when the city's Parkwise will install meters, DiFiore hopes public reaction will influence the city's decision.

Donovan Durband, director of the city's parking division, noted those plans have not yet been decided.

The city has hired an outside consultant to study the area and come back with a number of possible scenarios to bring parking meters to Fourth Avenue.

A preliminary report will be delivered to Parkwise staff by the end of the month, Durband said.

It is unclear how much will be generated from the new meters. For all of its meters, most of which are downtown or in the University of Arizona area, Parkwise is forecasting it will take in $1.47 million in the 2015 fiscal year.

This is more than double the revenues the city is expected to bring in from parking meters in the 2013 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

One of DiFiore's concerns is parking for herself and her staff.

"We don't have any parking either," she said, noting many employees and business owners are using the on-street parking.

Her general manager for the restaurant, Christopher Baldwin, said he would be a more enthusiastic supporter if the revenue collected would be reinvested in the area.

He said he would like to see the city build a parking garage nearby for Fourth Avenue employees, as well as extend the hours of the streetcar to coincide with when the bars close.

Across the street, the owner of Brooklyn Pizza Company and Sky Bar isn't sure what parking meters for customers will mean to his bottom line.

Tony Vaccaro said he also is waiting for details to emerge.

"If it is not too expensive, I suppose it is not a bad thing. But if it is too expensive or doesn't alleviate parking problems, then I think it is a terrible idea," Vaccaro said.

The two businesses do have some off-street parking next to his bar, so Vaccaro doesn't think parking for his employees will be an issue. "It shouldn't be a big problem for us," he said.

Brian Wolff, the owner of Epic Cafe, has been battling parking problems for years.

Most recently, streetcar construction closed off a portion of North Fourth Avenue and Congress Street.

It hurt his business as well as several of his neighbors, he said.

Wolff said while introduction of parking meters isn't the biggest challenge facing Fourth, it will change the essence of the district of mostly locally owned small businesses.

"It is inevitable. It is going to happen. I think it is going to take away from the spirit of Fourth Avenue," he said.

Laura Trostman, who took her brother visiting from Michigan to go shopping on Fourth this week, isn't sure whether parking meters will dissuade her from taking others to the area.

For a decade, she has been taking relatives and out-of-town guests for what she calls "the Fourth Avenue Experience."

"I might think twice," she said. "But then again, a couple of bucks is no big deal."

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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