Can Mariemont’s chronic shortages of parking be solved?

In the MPF’s Vision 2021, a shortage of parking spots around the Mariemont Square is mentioned many times because it creates an inconvenience and obstacle for visitors going to the Theatre, Quarter, Greaters and the Inn during peak hours. Events in and around the Square also overload parking. One quote from the Vision 2021 Plan states, “While parking changes have been instituted on an as-needed basis, much of it has been reactive and not proactive in solving the underlying parking problems. Parking decks and an increase in on-street parking might curb such issues as the Village aims to attract new businesses and conveniently serve the needs of visitors to the village.” Others suggest, “Create a parking deck behind the cinemas/create garage parking behind The Strand” and “solve the existing parking problem—not enough parking.” For as long as I have lived in Mariemont, inadequate parking has been a chronic problem that has resulted in friction between property owners, businesses, the Mariemont School Board and Village government. It would seem reasonable that a long term strategic plan for Mariemont address this problem in a definitive way.

A parking garage in Mariemont is not a new idea. When the Mariemont Inn was renovated, there was talk and push back about an underground garage.

The parking area behind the Mariemont Theatre currently accommodates approximately 100 cars. I would conjecture that increasing this number to 200 or 250 parking spaces would address Mariemont’s parking needs once and for all. The topography and space behind the Theatre is quite adequate to accommodate an underground parking garage with the upper deck providing the foundation for restoration of the existing storefronts. Parking garages are not cheap and each space typically costs about $20,000 to build. Thus projected costs would run between 4 and 6 million dollars.

The development costs may seem overwhelming, but there are many financial instruments to consider in funding such a project including: TIF financing, municipal bonds, grants, a Community Development Corporation and investment by owners and businesses. To financially succeed, parking fees probably would become a necessity in Mariemont so as to generate funds to service the debt and make up for the lost revenues due to tax abatements. Moreover, with the disappearance of estate tax revenues for the Village, an additional revenue stream may be necessary to balance the Village’s budget in the near future with or without the garage.

A project such as this warrants a feasibility study conducted by outside consultants, qualified local residents and interested developers. If successful, Mariemont would have a real trump card to attract and retain businesses as well as foster gentrification and new business development.

— Dick Wendel, MD, MBA

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