Neighborhood small businesses that lack parking options could receive some help from the City of Detroit through a $9 million investment to build new surface lots in commercial corridors.
The City Council approved a contract Tuesday with the Detroit Building Authority to fund the expansion of parking spaces for businesses in select neighborhoods targeted for investment by the city. Detroit planning officials said over the next two years, vacant land owned by the city or Detroit Land Bank Authority will be converted into small surface parking lots adjacent to commercial corridors. The contract is paid for with American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Dan Austin, director of communications for the Planning, Housing and Development Department, said it’s unclear exactly how many parking spaces will be created since the design process is just getting started. However, Austin said the city anticipates building around 400 new spots.
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“The community and business owners have been vocal about the shortage of dedicated parking along commercial corridors, and it was also a frequent topic of discussion during the Strategic Neighborhood Fund community engagement process,” Austin said in an email.
A lack of parking along major streets with neighborhood businesses has been a known issue for years. A 2018 Detroit Economic Growth Corp. report recommended expanding on-street parking in several commercial corridors, arguing that inaccessible or poorly designed parking lots negatively impact the development of retail businesses. Privately-owned lots may create a perception that parking isn’t available, according to the report.
Parking expansion also has been a theme in the city’s ongoing Strategic Neighborhood Fund planning process. The initiative is a public-private partnership to develop a select group of 10 neighborhoods through infrastructure improvements and commercial and residential development. Each area develops a “neighborhood framework plan” based on feedback gathered in community meetings, which informs revitalization projects.
Beth Kmetz-Armitage, deputy group executive for planning, housing and development for the mayor’s office, said six sites in neighborhoods that completed SNF framework plans will be the first to see new parking lots. The goal, she said, is to start construction next spring and finish the project by the end of 2024. Kmetz-Armitage said the future lots will be well-lit and accessible with standards set by the American with Disabilities Act.
Austin said the project shouldn’t require the city to purchase any additional land. Community engagement in the coming months will be led by the Department of Neighborhoods, he said, which will hold community meetings to gather feedback from residents and businesses.
Kmetz-Armitage said the lots will be managed by the Municipal Parking Department, which will also determine whether parking is free or requires payment.
Here’s a breakdown of where the city is eyeing more parking lots, and what the neighborhood plans say about demand and access.
East Warren and Cadieux
A land bank-owned parcel near the corner of East Warren and Grayton could provide 15 parking spaces behind SNF-led investment sites. In 2018, East Warren Avenue underwent a project to make conditions safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. The roadway was reduced to three-lanes with on-street parking and a protected bike lane. However, the redesign caused some confusion among drivers who sometimes mistake the bike lanes for parking spots, according to the neighborhood framework plan.
An inventory of all on-street parking along the East Warren corridor found most blocks average about 10 parking spaces, but around 30 spaces per block are needed to meet demand.
McNichols and Tuller
The city identified a half-acre gravel lot owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority on Tuller Street just south of McNichols. The lot could serve 50 or more parking spaces, according to the city.
A portion of McNichols underwent a major makeover through a Strategic Neighborhood Fund project in 2021. The project included new sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, traffic calming measures, bike lanes and other improvements. On-street parking was unmarked previously, and city documents show it was instead used by drivers as a passing lane.
McNichols and San Juan
The city owns an empty gravel lot near the corner of McNichols Road and San Juan Drive that could hold more than 55 spaces. Kmetz-Armitage said the city plans pave the lot and add lighting, landscaping and payment kiosks.
Northwest Grand River
Demolition of two buildings is needed to turn city-owned parcels into a surface lot with 40 parking spaces. The city owns four parcels near the corner of Lahser and Argus roads in the Old Redford neighborhood. Kmetz-Armitage said Detroit has marketed the buildings for development for several years, but they’re in “terrible condition” and aren’t feasible for rehabilitation.
Residents and business owners in the area expressed a desire for more parking through the SNF process, as a lack of convenience along Grand River Avenue can be a barrier for people looking to shop along the commercial corridor. There are parking lanes on each side of the road, however these are poorly marked and are often used by cars. The neighborhood framework plan shows a major deficit in parking near Lahser Road.
Gratiot and Seven Mile
Up to 50 parking spaces could be added to a collection of Land Bank-owned lots directly behind storefronts on Gratiot Avenue. Additional on-street parking was recommended as a streetscape improvement through the neighborhood framework plan.
Russell Woods and Nardin Park
Approximately 15 parking spaces could be added near the corner of Sturtevant and Dexter avenues by developing a vacant city-owned site.
The area’s neighborhood framework plan shows on-street parking is the primary option for commercial districts, though some businesses offer small surface parking lots.
The plan highlights a retail microdistrict on the north end of Dexter Avenue, between Davison Street and Sturtevant Avenue, where improvements were planned for pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, parking and traffic calming measures. Dexter was flagged for “a heavy distribution of resources to encourage continued stability and local business development growth,” under the plan. This includes building parking on vacant lots.