One space at a time

City and merchants hope newly marked spots will ease downtown parking woes
by: Jaime Valdez Bernard Kurtz shows where 28 public parking spaces will be gone when Providence Health & Services builds a senior housing and healthcare development.

While high unemployment and a lingering economic recession are not doing downtown Beaverton merchants any favors, customer traffic is steady enough to overwhelm the amount of available parking on any given day.

'The downtown section of Beaverton is slowly being starved out. We're rapidly running out of parking,' says Bernard Kurtz, who owns The Peddler's Pack Stampworks, 4570 S.W. Watson Ave., with his wife, Joyce.

He's therefore pleased the city of Beaverton, based on a recommendation from the Beaverton Downtown Association, is in the process of marking 327 on-street parking spaces for customers and clients in and around Old Town Beaverton.

'Putting in arrows to mark parking spaces is a small step in the right direction,' Kurtz says.

Marking existing parking spaces for two-hour use may seem like a relatively minor 'small step,' but actually draws attention to spaces that were often ignored or improperly used, says Holly Thompson, the city's program director for the Beaverton Downtown Association.

'We're really happy with it,' she says of the project. 'All it is, is clearly identifying what we already had. But if you clearly mark and identify on-street parking, it's much easier to utilize and easier to park there.

'Parking in the Old Town portion of the city is something we've been looking at for a long time. We wanted to help businesses and property owners down there.'

She cites Third Street and the perimeter around the Beaverton City Library as prime examples of underutilized street parking.

'If you look at Third Street by the library, there's the potential for 52 parking spaces. On any given day, they're less than 5 percent utilized,' she says. 'You see some parking by Third and Tucker, and a little bit around the Key Bank. Otherwise, the rest of the street is ignored.'

City crews spent recent weeks putting down preliminary striping and are in the process of applying permanent white guide marks to delineate standard-sized parking spaces. The 'hockey stick'-like markings eliminate guesswork in how much space should go in front and behind vehicles for efficient in-and-out movement.

'It allows for appropriate spacing,' Thompson says. 'Without guide marks, people aren't always careful in how they park. This regulates and evens out the parking.'

Kurtz, a downtown merchant since 1986, serves on the executive committee of Beaverton's Main Street Program, a local branch of a statewide program dedicated to economic revitalization of historic downtown districts. He agrees the markings will bring some order to downtown street parking.

'By putting in striping for parking, it eliminates instances where there were four cars parked where there could be six,' he says. 'I'm definitely in favor of it.'

Beaverton was accepted into the Oregon Main Street Program in August 2010. Mayor Dennis Doyle vowed the city would provide up to $15,000 in grants toward turning innovative ideas into reality.

Railroad tracks and complex street and traffic patterns make interconnectedness and shared parking areas in the business district a challenge, Kurtz says.

He would like to see Beaverton move in the direction of neighboring Hillsboro, which built parking garages and took a street-by-street approach to establishing a long-term parking plan.

'We definitely have some parking issues to work on,' Kurtz says, 'Beaverton is unique. It's not an easy fix. The city's (business district) is very fragmented.'

With nearby construction, including a Providence Medical Center building, consuming parking lots near his business, Kurtz says parking will be at a premium until city and business leaders can work out a comprehensive plan.

'In Beaverton, one shoe doesn't fit all,' he says. 'We'll have to look at it street by street. There's not a simple solution.'