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Downtown parking remains a sore spot in Clemson

The off-campus housing boom in downtown Clemson has created new living space, but has also worsened parking frustration among community members.
Developments, including the Campus View Apartments, have already increased downtown activity, and new projects such as 114 Earle, which will open in the fall, will only add to the rush.
Assistant Director City Administrator Andy Blondeau said that parking has always been a key issue downtown.   
Crowded development has made it a sore spot for some. In response, the city is “rewriting the entire parking ordinance” in order to help alleviate some parking issues, said Blondeau.
He said the new plans call for the removal of all coin operated meters from the downtown parking deck. They will be replaced by a multi-space meter system like the one currently used on Clemson’s campus.
This should be much more convenient because drivers will no longer need to carry around change in order to pay for parking.
Blondeau also said the city will reduce confusion about parking by moving leased spots from the middle level to the top of the parking deck.
Currently Clemson’s downtown parking garage has a bottom level of metered parking, a middle level of leased spots, and then another level of metered parking on top. The problem, he said, is that many drivers just see the leased spots and turn back around, not aware that there is a another level of available parking.
The majority of the leased spots — which offer come and go access Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. — are held by downtown merchants. Community members are quick to take advantage of this service, leading to a long and stagnant waitlist.
As for downtown shoppers, parking spaces range between one and two hours along College Avenue, whereas metered parking has a four hour limit. The main concern from the retailers is that there isn’t enough convenient parking for customers, which may be driving them away.
Connie Mckee, the manager of Greek Gallery, said, “I have a designated parking space, so it doesn’t really affect me, [but] an hour isn’t a lot of time if you’re shopping or going to eat.”
Other plans include the institution of better signage, to help direct drivers to where unused parking is, aiding in the elimination of unnecessary confusion. Also, the City Council has leased 40 new spaces in the Earle Street development, effective this fall.
From the perspective of many community members, these new developments are not only causing congestion, but also transforming Clemson in some negative ways.
An online petition, “Enact a Moratorium on Clemson Construction Now!” had been signed by 309 people as of April 6. It calls for a two-year legal moratorium “on the rezoning, application processing, permitting and construction of new high-density housing within certain areas of the city.”         
Reasons for issuing the petition include working to relieve strains on the community’s resources and improving the quality of life for Clemson residents.
Comments on the petition include, “My town is no longer the charming place it use to be!” and, “Downtown is being ruined by unattractive massive student housing.”
Blondeau said that there is “high anxiety about what’s going to happen in the fall,” but that he anticipates students will leave their cars parked.
The developments’ close proximity to campus causes much less of a need for using cars and causing traffic. Parking is a definite issue within the Clemson community, but “it’s not disproportionate to what other municipalities are struggling with,” he said.
Blondeau and others are working to evaluate existing parking assets to make sure they are getting the most efficiency out of them, as well as “designing parking programs and ordinances to best serve the community.”
Studies are being done on Clemson area transit, looking into different options such as busing to reduce traffic downtown.
He said, “As long as we have the housing developing in the urban core, it will allow us to minimize congestion.”
Although Clemson University parking is completely separate from Clemson city parking, frustration still persists.
Freshman biological sciences major Daina Chase said, “I dislike that parking is a mile away from our dorms and that there’s barely enough spots … people park in the grass and still get ticketed.”
Many have become discouraged from not knowing where they are or are not allowed to park on campus due to miscommunication between the university and students.
Strides are being made to fix issues presented by community members, as Blondeau said, “[by] making the most of what we’ve got, trying to manage the growth in a sustainable way to decrease congestion and plan for the future.”

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