If you drive the downtown streets of Littleton looking for a parking spot, especially on a Friday or Saturday evening, you may end up searching for a long time — and face a long walk to the business you want to patronize.
Parking problems rank high on the list of complaints about Littleton from both residents and business owners. In the city’s 2016survey of business owners, 53 percent of respondents cited a lack of customer parking as a concern, up from 43 percent in 2014.In a survey of residents, parking was not included among a list of concerns to choose from, but 1 percent of respondents still wrote it in the “other” category.
Several new bars and restaurants opening along Main Street, such as The Alley, which opened Dec. 16 in the building that used to house Jose’s Restaurant, and the Littleton location of the ViewHouse, still under construction, will likely exacerbate the shortage.
Lisa Bennett, who lives in Grant Ranch, said she doesn’t come to downtown Littleton as often as she would like because of the lack of parking.
“I love that more restaurants and bars are coming to the neighborhood, but I think they’ll have a tough time if they don’t figure out a parking solution,” she said.
City spokeswoman Kelli Narde said the city has approximately 1,200 parking spaces downtown.
Greg Reinke, president of the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Association, said that Littleton doesn’t actually have a parking problem.
“What we have is a paid parking problem,” he said. “Nobody wants to pay for it.”
Reinke, who charges $3 for parking in the lot at his costume shop — Reinke Bros. at 5663 S. Prince St. — during the day and $5 at night, said that his lot is almost never full. He believes people feel entitled to free parking, but says that’s unrealistic.
City Councilmember Bill Hopping, who represents the downtown area, said the city is starting to look at the issue in earnest, but said a lack of parking is a side effect that comes with positive economic developments.
“A parking problem is good thing,” he said. “In 2005, you could park anywhere.”
A project underway on Main Street will add some parking to downtown. An application for a four-story retail, office and apartment development at the site of the old Valley Feed and Lawn at 2679 W. Main St. calls for 50 parking spots to be available as paid public parking on nights and weekends.
Hopping said the most likely solution is a public/private partnership to build a large parking garage near downtown, but noted that garages are expensive to build.
Bennett said she would like to see a multi-level parking structure near the light rail station or on the west side of Santa Fe.
“I am not opposed to paying a couple of bucks to park in a garage if I’m there more than two hours,” she said.
Reinke said he looked into building a parking structure on his Prince Street lot but determined that it would be too expensive. He said Littleton needs to encourage people to walk more.
“We have to change the culture,” he said.