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Editorial: Commissioners may have solution to city parking problems

True: People will find a place to park when they’re headed to downtown Salisbury to shop at a boutique, eat at a restaurant or attend an event. If there’s not a spot, right next to their destination, they’ll park within waling distance.

Also true: In the case of extraordinarily large, downtown events, parking will soon be in shorter supply.

That’s due in park to the ongoing transformation of a downtown block into the Bell Tower Green Park and the need for parking that will accompany the Empire Hotel (the city will provide a few dozen spots, but tenants and their visitors will have to park elsewhere downtown, too).

Having a shorter supply of downtown parking isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From the Empire Hotel’s redevelopment into apartments, Salisbury will gain a wealth of new, downtown residents. The Bell Tower Green Park will be among Rowan County’s greatest assets.

Still, events like the Cheerwine festival, Salisbury Pride and the city’s Christmas parade, to name just a few of many, will leave downtown visitors looking a little longer than usual for a spot to park.

And Rowan County commissioners may have a partial solution.

Commissioners have directed architects to draw up plans for an agricultural center at West End Plaza, which would agencies such as the Rowan County Cooperative out of their Old Concord Road office and into new digs. And they’ve had brief discussions about what comes next, reviving all manner of old debates about which a decision was never made.

Will some of the sheriff’s office move to the former mall? What about Social Services and the Health Department moving to West End Plaza and the sheriff’s office moving to their location?

Both are questions to which a final solution hasn’t been reached. However, both questions could involve moving magistrates out of their building across West Liberty Street, leaving it vacant. And earlier this month, Commissioner Craig Pierce proposed bulldozing building to add more parking space downtown.

Bulldozing the magistrates’ building would not make up for space lost through the creation of Bell Tower Green Park, but it would add a couple dozen spaces to the downtown inventory, especially if spaces for courthouse employees are available to the general public after hours. And paving a gravel lot between Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church and the magistrates’ office could ensure a more efficient use of the space.

At the point that downtown parking reaches a crisis point (we’re far from that now), it may be time to seriously debate the merits of building a parking deck.

In the weeks since crews transformed the future site of Bell Tower Green from a paved lot to a fenced-in dirt lot, there haven’t been any crises of parking in downtown, but large events in our future may strain the area’s inventory. When that happens, it may be best for concerned citizens to quiz commissioners about their plans first.

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