M&T Bank is willing to open to the public its private parking lot at the corner of Market and Third streets in Lewes.
Through a partnership with the city, Mayor Ted Becker said, the bank’s lot can be reconfigured to create 39 parking spaces, a significant increase from the existing 26. The bank would retain 18 spaces for customers and its employees, leaving 21 spaces available to be metered for public use. It remains to be determined if M&T’s spaces can be metered for after-hours parking, Becker said.
Combined with a larger effort to change the traffic pattern of Third Street, the city could add nearly 40 spaces to its parking inventory over the next few years, Becker said.
If the city and bank move ahead, Becker said, more parking could be added ahead of the 2020 tourist season.
Charlie O’Donnell of engineering firm George, Miles & Buhr presented the city’s business district parking committee with several configurations for the lot at the group’s March meeting. The committee’s preferred choice was then shared with M&T Bank officials.
In order to make it work, O’Donnell said, minor regrading would be needed in a small section of the lot. They would then seal coat the surface and restripe it with the new configuration. All in, he said, the project would cost about $82,000.
At the committee’s May 7 meeting, Councilwoman Bonnie Osler pointed out the cost of the project does not include the cost of meters or kiosks that would be added to the lot.
Assuming 50 percent occupancy, Becker said, the city could realize about $23,500 in revenue annually. He said the city would likely seek a five-year lease with the bank to justify the expense.
O’Donnell said the project would take about six weeks, and he would target mid to late fall 2019 for construction.
Although the city may move forward with the project, Becker said, it does not rule out the potential for a parking garage on the property in the future. He said M&T Bank is open to further discussing the garage idea.
The short-term project would also create more room on Third Street for added on-street parking. The plan eliminates one exit from the lot, O’Donnell said, allowing the city to add five angled or two parallel parking spaces on the street.
Third Street, as a whole, could also be changing in the near future. The committee is planning to host a workshop Thursday, June 13, about converting Third to a one-way street.
The idea create a loop to travel down Second Street, already one way, to Market Street and then back to Savannah Road.
By making it a one-way street, the city could add 17 more spaces on the block.
A previous iteration envisioned a one-way street from Shipcarpenter to Savannah, but the street west of Market was too narrow to gain any additional parking spaces.
Becker said the city is working with Matheu Carter of the Delaware T2 Center to better understand the impacts of such a major shift in traffic pattern.
Osler said it’s important the committee hears from Carter before the workshop.
“This could have a significant impact,” she said. “We don’t want to unreasonably shift the problem. We need to understand how big of an effect this will be and if it will be too much.”
The committee’s next meeting is slated for Thursday, June 6.
Beebe lot available
Beebe Healthcare officials have given the city permission to promote their stone lot behind Rite Aid as available parking on weekends when demand parking in Lewes is high and demand at the hospital is low.
Becker said the lot is a short, straight walk from downtown and does not require anyone to cross major roads like Savannah Road or Kings Highway.
Better signage proposed
Mayor and city council will vote Monday, May 13, on whether to contract with MERJE Design to improve signage in the downtown area. Becker said Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, and Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, have each pledged $10,000 of their community transportation funds for the project, estimated at $30,000.