Talks have resumed to create more public parking at the M&T Bank lot in downtown Lewes.
If M&T Bank and city officials are able to come an agreement within the next few weeks, the reconfigured lot at Market Street and West Third Street could be ready for summer 2020.
When last discussed at the business district parking committee in spring 2019, Mayor Ted Becker said the bank was on board to reconfigure its private lot to create more public parking for downtown visitors. Discussions stalled when the head of the bank’s real estate department retired, but conversations are again underway.
Things have changed in the last year that resulted in a new configuration for the lot. Chief among them, Becker said, the bank is now only willing to work with the city on a two-year trial basis. Without a longer-term commitment, Becker said, the plans were changed to reflect a more cost-effective approach. The result was a $63,000 plan creating 38 spaces – 11 more than what’s existing. The bank would retain 18 spaces for employees and customers, and Hotel Rodney, which also uses the lot, would require four spaces. That would leave the city with 16 public spaces. The bank’s spaces would also be open to the public after hours.
Of the total cost, Becker said, M&T Bank is willing to pay for resealing and restriping the lot, about $8,300. Another high-cost item is relocating dumpsters, about $28,000. It’s unknown if Hotel Rodney, which uses the dumpsters, is willing to pay part of that cost.
Under the proposed lease agreement, the city would pay the bank a percentage of revenue received from parking in the lot, with no monthly or annual payment.
At $1 per hour, the 16 new spaces could generate a maximum of $176 per day or about $29,000 per season, but that does not include revenue from the bank’s spaces after hours.
Committee member and downtown restaurateur Matt DiSabatino said the plan may be a short-term solution, but the city needs to develop a long-term plan too.
“I don’t want the committee to lose focus on a long-term solution,” he said, recalling pleas from residents who complained about visitors and downtown employees taking all the parking on the streets surrounding the business district. “I don’t think this short-term plan really addresses the residential parking or the negative effect it’s having.”
Becker said Beebe Healthcare has agreed to open its parking lots to the public on weekends, and he plans to add signage to direct people to the Beebe lots.
“It does involve a two-block walk, but it could offer some relief,” he said. “We need to do better to publicize those lots.”
The city also has a free parking lot at the corner of Schley Avenue and Franklin Avenue, also a two-block walk to downtown.
If the city were to move forward with the M&T project, city engineer Charlie O’Donnell said it would likely be a six-week project. If the city has to bid the project, he said, it will take an additional three to five weeks.