"Parking is the primary complaint among residents and visitors alike in terms of barriers to increased visitation to downtown," ("Durango Downtown Market Assessment," Dec. 1, 2008).
The proposed Railroad Square 220-hotel room and conference center will significantly add to the existing parking shortage, harming downtown business.
This plan proposes 150 on-site parking spaces with an additional 150 spaces in the future at a city-built garage two blocks away when funds become available. In this period of economic recession, it will be years before the city garage can be built.
Even at that time, only 65 parking spaces would be available for conference center use - not enough for any sizable conference and unable to support more than one event at a time.
About 40 of the planned parking spaces will be needed by railroad passengers because of the elimination of the existing gravel parking lot. Thus, only 110 spaces now and 260 spaces at some future time would be available for daytime use.
Ricci Dawson's comparison of this project with the DoubleTree is useful (Letters, Herald, Jan. 4).
The DoubleTree has 259 parking spaces and 159 hotel rooms - the same number of available parking spaces as provided by the DoubleTree are proposed to support a much larger hotel, a conference center and other uses. Moreover, 150 of the needed spaces will not be available until some unknown future time and would be two blocks away. Clearly, the Railroad Square parking plan is inadequate to support the proposed development.
The conclusion is obvious: Parking problems caused by the current plan for Railroad Square would make it less attractive to shop downtown, hurt hotel business if no spaces are available for guests, and because of the projected parking problem, the DoubleTree will continue to have the largest functional downtown meeting space. Yet ironically, downtown businesses are being asked to pay for part of this.
Both the railroad and downtown Durango are exceptionally valuable local assets. This project needs to be redesigned to support their continued financial viability, not harm it.
John Viner, Durango