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Parking squeeze

Council vote, paving have shop owners worried
by: JIM CLARK, With construction continuing on the nearby 104-unit Westerly and extensive repaving scheduled for next year, some Northwest 23rd Avenue business owners, like Blush Beauty Bar’s Deborah Haynes, are wondering where their customers will park.

Kim Lane, owner of the Bee and Thistle boutique at 2328 N.W. Westover Road, would like the dust to settle.

It's been three weeks since the Portland City Council, in a surprise 3-2 vote, upheld an appeal that has stopped construction of a long-planned parking garage behind Papa Haydn near Northwest 23rd Avenue and Irving Street.

Lane wanted that garage. And now she wants progress on alternative solutions to the parking mess that she's afraid is going to drive some Northwest 23rd Avenue shop owners out of business.

But as far as Lane is concerned, the dust isn't settling anytime soon, either politically or literally. The vote against the parking garage was only one of a number of factors combining to make parking in Northwest even more of an issue than it has been before.

It's been an issue dividing the neighborhood association and area shop owners, led by Richard Singer - landlord to many of those shops - for years.

The unexpected ruling on the Irving Street garage has altered the political landscape in Northwest Portland. Singer said he has not yet decided whether he will continue to fight for the garage. But neighborhood officials opposing the garage have begun to discuss potential solutions to the parking problems in Northwest Portland without it. And they are clear that they will support other garages in the neighborhood.

'It's been a long time since somebody said no parking (garages),' said Juliet Hyams, vice president of the neighborhood association. Hyams said there probably will be at least one garage, along with meters or permits as some part of an overall parking plan.

The lines in the sand for the neighborhood association - there are two of them, according to a number of members - are no parking structures west of 23rd Avenue, which is where the proposed Irving Street garage would be, and no parking lots without a comprehensive plan that includes meters and residential permits.

Area shop owners say they have more immediate concerns than garages that may or may not be built. Construction on the Westerly, a 104-unit condominium on Northwest 24th Avenue and Everett Street, has made parking even more scarce, with construction and construction workers taking up available parking spaces.

'I think this has taken it to the next level of not having enough parking available,' Lane said of the construction.

Road slated for a redo

And there's another level still to come that worries Lane even more. This fall the city is going to take bids on a $3.2 million project to completely reconstruct Northwest 23rd Avenue.

The project, scheduled to begin in January and continue through most of 2008, will mean four-block sections of the road will have single lanes of one-way traffic for months at a time.

Each four-block section under construction will cost the Nob Hill neighborhood an estimated 64 more parking spaces on 23rd Avenue.

Those lost spaces worry Mary Laase-Celik, owner of Turkish Imports at 816 N.W. 23rd Ave. She said she's run her shop for five years, and the parking problem has steadily worsened.

'Many of my friends won't even come down now because of the parking,' Laase-Celik said. 'I tell them, 'If you're willing to walk two blocks you can find a space.' It's not always true, but that's what I tell them.'

The most likely location for a parking garage, according to Chris Smith, ex-chairman of the neighborhood association transportation committee, is a surface lot next to the Metropolitan Learning Center on Northwest Glisan Street.

In the city's zoning plan for the neighborhood, six sites were selected for zoning as eventual garages. All but the Irving Street property already served as surface lots.

Among the other sites are the surface lot outside of Trader Joe's on Glisan and a nearby lot belonging to the Flanders Medical Center.

The neighborhood association, Smith said, probably will push the Metropolitan Learning Center site. 'Of all the sites we looked at, the one that was least objectionable was the MLC site - 110 spaces on two levels,' Smith said.

While the Metropolitan Learning Center site would not be as close to 23rd Avenue shops as the Irving Street location, it would, Smith said, serve as parking for moviegoers at the nearby Cinema 21.

'If the city got moving today I'd bet we could get a parking structure behind MLC in two years,' Smith said. 'But probably not quicker than that.'

2 years, 2 blocks, too much?

Two years might not be quick enough for some of the shops along Northwest 23rd to survive, said Deborah Haynes, owner of Blush Beauty Bar at 513 N.W. 23rd Ave. And the Metropolitan Learning Center site, just east of 21st Avenue and a little more than two blocks from Blush, may not even help in the long run, she said.

'Most people I know aren't going to walk that far,' Haynes said.

As for the 23rd Avenue reconstruction worries, Haynes and Lane have begun meeting with City of Portland Office of Transportation officials hoping to find ways to mitigate the disruption the project is expected to cause.

They talk about hosting sales and special events, and possibly operating a shuttle bus along the avenue. But even Haynes knows those solutions won't be enough.

'I don't know what the answer is,' Haynes said.