City of Oxford looks to increase parking on the Square

Posted on Sep 18 2018 - 5:50am by David Ballowe

Square patrons and employees may have noticed an increase in road, alleyway and parking space closures on the weekends over the past year. These closures have affected parking, drivers picking up individuals and driving.

When major roads such as Jackson and Van Buren Avenues on the Square close, drivers are often rerouted down University and Jefferson Avenues.

Jefferson Avenue, which is home to Lindsey’s Chevron and the Graduate Oxford, was a favorite route for residents looking to park in the Oxford Square North parking lot. However, recent construction has closed the area.

Matt Davis, the director of parking for the Oxford Police Department, said the closure of the Oxford Square North parking lot, known around the Square as the Bouré parking lot, is the only parking closure affecting the Square at this time.

“The mission of the closure is to safely construct a new parking garage,” Davis said. He added that his department is adding to the overall parking inventory around the Square.

When completed, the parking garage will be 141,800 square feet and will have four levels that will house a combined 399 parking spaces. In addition, the lot around the garage will have 86 regular spaces, four handicapped-accessible spaces and two charter bus spaces.

Construction for the garage, which was scheduled to begin on Aug. 27, is expected to take a full year to complete and will close off various areas around the Oxford Square North parking lot during the process.

In an attempt to increase parking availability for visitors and employees while constructing the garage, the city added additional parking behind the Lafayette County Detention Center, but Mesquite Chop House’s bartender Kevin Coote said that the move isn’t adequate enough.

Coote, who lives off of the Square on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and walks past the additional parking lot on his way to work, said he’s never seen more than a handful of cars in the lot.

“The sign is, like, 15 feet in the air and up on a hill. If you don’t know where it is, you won’t find it.” Coote said. “I’ve had people ask to park at my house because the alternate parking isn’t adequate enough.”

With free parking options few and far-between and paid parking meters charging $1.25 an hour from 10 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday, Oxford Square employees are having to spend money just so they can go to work and make money.

“It definitely affects morale. Finding parking is tedious, and I’m not going to pay $20 to park on the Square,” the Summit Lodge Bar manager James Dylan Farris said. “I have had to take a taxi to and from work (before). That’s $40 … I had to spend just to go to work because the already lucrative city wants more money.”

The driving and parking situation has caused some animosity towards the city, both from customers and business staff members alike.

Dudley Prewitt, an Oxford resident who has lived in town for 25 years, said he and others who have lived in Oxford for most of their lives aren’t used to the change.

While pointing to the alleyway between The Library Sports Bar and Square Pizza, Prewitt said it was the sole road closure the Square had seen for the past 10 years.

Such stark change around the Square has caused kinks among Square businesses of all types.  

Duke Hussey, local taxi and Uber driver, has seen firsthand the congestion caused by the street closures around the Square bars on weekend nights.

“It makes it really hard to pick people up,” Hussey said. “If they’re (the city of Oxford) going to block off a road, they need to design a pickup/dropoff area where only Ubers and taxis are allowed to wait, without the general public.”

Rideshare services and taxi drivers are not the only ones affected by the recent road changes.

Brent Carson, a security guard at The Levee who is responsible for using his truck to carry trash cans to the dumpster across the Square from the bar, said he and his coworkers would be able to leave work 30 minutes earlier if they didn’t have to stop and wait for the Oxford police to remove the bollards blocking Jackson Avenue.

This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from a news reporting class.