Downtown Kent to add parking pay stations


Parking lot in downtown Kent. Photo by Yolanda Li.

Alexis Pfeifer

The future of downtown Kent parking will include parking pay stations for high-use commercial streets, while 35 to 45 percent of the parking downtown will be free for long-term parking, in addition to the construction of the Kent Central Gateway parking deck.

The generalized plan for parking downtown is to create a parking management program that will be implemented city-wide and will be business friendly, easy to use, affordable and flexible, said Jim Bowling, engineer for the City of Kent.

“There will also be some paid parking available for the higher-priority spots,” Bowling said. “The pay stations are to promote turnover and to have more available parking immediately in front of the store fronts on the high use commercial streets.”

These streets include Main, Water and Erie streets.

“We’re going to try to shoot for an 80 to 85 percent utilization of parking,” Bowling said. “That means for the majority of the day, 80 to 85 percent of those 1,100 spots are full. The other major component is shared use parking. We want one spot to serve the office workers in the day, the early dinner crowd, the late dinner crowd and the bar crowd all in the same spot.”

The paid on-street parking is set up for Monday through Saturday during business hours. It will be free to park everywhere on evenings and Sunday, except the parking deck when it is completed.

Bowling said the city has always received complaints about parking.

“Even before the city had the development going on downtown and we were utilizing less than 50 percent of the available parking, there were still complaints being launched,” Bowling said. “There will always be complaints.”

Bridget Susel, director of Kent Community Development, fields some of these complaints.

Most complaints are anecdotal in response to parking tickets in the all-day lot without a permit, Susel said. In this case, it is a valid ticket, but police understand the confusion of the parking situation.

However, Susel added that parking in a two-hour spot on the street for longer than the allotted time limit will also result in a valid ticket.

“It’s a daily job by numerous city departments right now to manage the parking, whether its enforcement or putting up additional signage to direct people where to go or talking to business owners to make sure they know where they can send their employees to park,” Bowling said. “There are numerous things being done to alleviate the situation.”

Before any changes are made to parking, complaints go through the Parking Action Committee, the Safety Director and eventually the Kent City Council, Bowling said.

The construction of the parking deck is expected to aid the parking strain.

Bowling said the parking deck will add 362 parking spots downtown with an additional 50 to 100 spots opening up with the completion of the construction that are currently in use by contractors. These spots will add to the more than 1,100 parking spots available now.

“It’s in the construction time, you’re inconvenienced. We’re in the inconvenient stage because we’re still building,” Bowling said. “We’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet.”

Bryan Smith, director of planning for Portage Area Regional Transport Authority, said the Kent Central Gateway project is scheduled to finish in March, and the project remains on budget.

Contact Alexis Pfeifer at [email protected].