Because parking in Oxford is a problem for students, Oxonians and visitors alike, the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission is preparing to begin construction on the Square’s first parking garage.
The timeline for construction of the parking garage has been slightly delayed from its original January 2018 start date and is now scheduled to last for the entire 2018 football season.
“The original construction time was always going to run into football season but now will likely take the entire 2018 season, instead of the first four games,” said Matt Davis, director of parking for the City of Oxford. “The timeline for construction was always tentative but has been moved back slightly because of revisions made during the design phase.”
Davis said the Board of Aldermen has now approved the design development phase of the garage and that the design team is now working on the construction documents.
Tom Sharpe, the chairman of the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission, said that part of the reasoning for the delay was to make the garage look more “architecturally pleasing.”
Sharpe said that construction is now slated to begin between April 1 and May 15 and is anticipated to take about a year.
During construction, nearly 250 free parking spots will become unavailable for Square patrons.
“We have identified some 250 or so spaces in alternative locations near the Square to replace the 234 spaces in the current lot that will not be available,” Sharpe said.
Davis said that the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission has been working on plans to introduce free temporary parking spots during construction, as well.
“There will not be a net loss (of parking spots) during construction, although the parking lots will be spread around the Square,” Davis said.
The garage is being designed by Eley Guild Hardy Architects and is slated to be four stories.
Though prices for the parking garage have not been finalized, Davis said that the current revenue model will make spots on the second through fourth floors cost $0.50 an hour. The first floor may be slated for reserved parking only.
Davis said that pricing is not final and is subject to change based on recommendations by parking consultants.
Though the garage will take the place of the free parking, Sharpe said there will be approximately 250 free parking spaces located around the Square, including in “the surface lot surrounding the garage, under the water tower, around the Lafayette County Courthouse and on Monroe Avenue between First National Bank and the County Building.”
Sharpe said that the garage will help with the parking concerns of not only Square-goers but also those who work there.
“The off-street parking, primarily used by employees around the Square, is at capacity,” he said. “The garage is needed to accommodate the steadily increasing demand for parking around the Square.”
With free parking soon to be at a premium, local businesses will be able to validate parking for customers that make use of the Passport Parking app.
“It will allow merchants to pay all or part of a person’s parking charge if the person uses the app,” Sharpe said.
The app, which has been in use by the city of Oxford for about four years, also allows people to pay for parking using a virtual wallet and reminds customers when their meters are about to expire, allowing them to add funds without having to return to the meter.