Customers of both retail and service businesses enjoy the convenience of parking close to their destination. Driving around the block without finding a space is discouraging, leads to the perception that parking is not available, and may prevent that individual from returning to those stores and restaurants. The opposite is also true; who would open a store or restaurant in an area where there doesn’t seem to be any open parking? So the challenge is not only making sure there is enough parking for everyone who uses downtown, but to make sure that everyone understands the importance of parking in the area that best fits their needs. With today’s retail and consumer trends, it is important that the spaces closest to the businesses are available for customer parking and continue to turn over during the day. The more cars that park in one space each day translates into more money being spent at the independent businesses within the district.
If you actually take the time to count the parking spaces available in the free public lots on Central Avenue and N. Market Street, you quickly realize that there is not a parking shortage. The board members and volunteers of Main Street with help from our City Council took these counts on several occasions, noting each time that dozens of spaces were available during the busiest hours each weekday. This is why those who work or do business downtown for more than 2 hours at a time are encouraged to use these free public parking areas, leaving more street-side spaces open for customers.
Almost every rural community could make the argument that there isn’t enough parking on Main Street. In fact, some of the nicest and most popular small towns across Ohio are known for inadequate parking, yet they continue to draw people to dine and shop season after season. When visiting a mall or other big box store, no one thinks twice about walking a few hundred yards of asphalt before reaching the entrance. Historic town centers were designed and built long before automobiles were one per person, but that’s part of the reason Downtown Van Wert is such a unique place. It’s that character and nostalgic charm that invites us to park a block away and become a pedestrian, taking in the ornate buildings and rich history on the walk to our destination.