OXFORD – Oxford may be closer to having a downtown parking garage. After years of study, Downtown Parking Commission members will ask the Board of Aldermen to approve a request for proposals to design a garage behind City Hall and a transitional space to the Square.
A conceptual design presented by Structured Parking Solutions would provide 479 spaces, a net gain of 367 spaces over the existing parking lot, with a streetscape of alternating store-like facades and plant-covered walls.
“We tried to make it look more like the buildings around it and to soften it up,” said company spokesman Lee Burch.
Oxford architect Tom Howorth presented a concept to redesign the City Hall plaza to connect the garage to the Square, adding public restrooms and meeting space while leaving the rooftop as a gathering venue.
Howorth suggested twin walkways, each connecting to a different floor of the garage to reduce elevator waits, with an additional wheelchair entry to City Hall. The Board is expected to vote on proposals Sept. 17.
Mayor Pat Patterson briefly attended Friday’s parking commission meeting to voice extreme concerns about the city’s contract with Standard Parking.
He acknowledged meeting the goal of moving downtown workers to off-Square lots to free up storefront parking for customers but said tickets and revenue have drastically missed Standard’s projections of a revenue-neutral contract.
Patterson contended Standard’s license plate recognition technology does not work.
“Since last Monday we’ve planted six vehicles on the Square. None of them was ticketed,” he told regional manager Bill Foster. “We’re down $250,000, and … it’s time to get it right. We aren’t getting what we’re paying for.”
Foster claimed improvements and acknowledged gaps.
“We have seen a very large improvement in the number of tickets being written (but) it’s clear the capture rate is not what it should be,” he said. “We continue to work on it, to make it better.”
Commission Chairman Tom Sharpe noted that if the city moves to a paid parking system for downtown, “We’re going to have to know whether the license plate recognition system will work.”
Rather than express chagrine, Foster used Sharpe’s concern to push for a metered parking system, whose equipment he estimated would cost the city $381,000.
“Writing a ticket on an expired meter is a lot cleaner” than the license plate recognition system, he said.