Parking is a major issue area in downtown Halifax. A primary driver of the parking problem is the large number of visitors to the downtown on court days. The people attending the court park on Main Street in front of the businesses and in the private parking areas located along Houston Street. Another problem with parking is the large number of signed spaces in the immediate downtown area, creating a shortage of general public parking. This includes most of the spaces along Edmunds Boulevard around the courthouse, the business parking along Houston Street, and the Town parking lot.
A major parking lot is located in the next block on the west side of Main Street adjacent to the regional jail facility. This lot, while available to the public and to workers at the courthouse, is underutilized. In addition, the Town of Halifax owns a lot on Mountain Road northwest of the intersection with Main Street. Most of the spaces in the lot, however, are currently reserved for people renting the space on a monthly basis. Most of the spaces are not currently rented, so the lot is underutilized, but not available for general public parking.
The area along Houston Street behind the businesses fronting on Main Street also offers a substantial number of parking spaces. Most of these spaces are signed for individual businesses, and pedestrian access between this parking and Main Street is extremely inadequate. Some businesses have entrances on both Main Street and Houston Street, while a few businesses and residential apartments are entered only from Houston Street. Retaining and improving parking is a primary goal of the downtown revitalization plan. In order to address the parking problems, three issues must be addressed. First, parking areas need to be redesigned and improved to maximize the number and quality of spaces available. Second, directional signs to the parking and enhanced pedestrian walks to connect the parking to the businesses and the courthouse are essential. Third, a unified parking management plan must be developed, implemented and enforced in order to coordinate courthouse, employee and customer use of the parking spaces.
Improvement of parking along Houston Street is a primary recommendation of the master plan. Houston Street is currently a public right-of-way minimally maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The roadway is substandard, and adjacent businesses have various parking configurations along the road, including parallel spaces and perpendicular spaces that back directly onto the road. Some of the private areas adjacent to the road have relatively unimproved stone parking areas, others have paved lots, and there are other relatively level open areas suitable for parking that currently are not used. In order to improve Houston Street, adjacent parking would have to meet current standards and perpendicular spaces would no longer be allowed. This would reduce the total parking available in the area.
The alternative recommended in the master plan is for VDOT to abandon the Houston Street right of way except for a cul-de-sac at the north end access, and for the Town of Halifax to take over the property. The Town and the adjacent property owners will develop a joint ingress-egress and parking agreement that will allow the reconfiguration of the entire area into an organized parking lot with a through lane suitable for semi trailer delivery trucks in the approximate location of the existing Houston Street. Some spaces will be reserved for individual businesses, but a large portion of the spaces will be open for public parking. The parking area redesign includes improved pedestrian access to the Houston Street business and residence entrances. The concept increases the total parking available in the downtown area, and has been endorsed by the business community. The Town is in the process of organizing a joint agreement pending preliminary design of the parking and access.
A parking inventory was prepared throughout the core study area in order to determine the total spaces available. Alternative parking arrangements were studied and the number of spaces available under the recommended master plan was compared to the total existing spaces. The results of this inventory are shown on Exhibit K.
Parking management and enforcement will include providing clear signs from Main Street to the various public parking areas. Court users should be directed to the lot adjacent to the regional jail facility. This should be accomplished not only through signs, but also through parking directions sent out with court notices. Signs for business parking should direct drivers towards the Houston Street lot. The Town lot should be made available for public parking, with the potential for continued limited monthly spaces signed at the rear of the lot. Short term parking restrictions along Main Street should be strictly enforced, perhaps with initial "friendly" notices provided by the merchants, who can generally monitor spaces in front of their shops. Employees should be directed towards more distant parking spaces, freeing up the immediate spaces in front of businesses on both Main Street and Houston Street for customers.