2004-12-03 / Business

City parking study ignores USC MBA recommendation

By John Temple Ligon

Published in March, 2002, and authored by HNTB Corporation of East Lansing, Michigan, “Parking Study for the Five Points Area” suggested many more meters for Five Points and deemed a parking garage unfeasible. Published in July, 1995, and authored by five USC MBA students, “Five Points Parking Analysis & Garage Feasibility” said otherwise.

Randy Dennis of 2Gs Clothing on Saluda Avenue wants to know why.

Carolyn Sawyer, public relations contractor, who said she found token opposition to the parking meter imposition, disseminated the city’s study. Randy Dennis, upon first hearing about it last month, talked with his immediate business neighbors on Saluda Avenue to hear if Sawyer was accurate. She was not, according to Dennis.

Dennis scored 23 signatures in protest on November 2 and 3, and more have walked into his shop since he completed his two–day survey with the following declaration:

“We, the merchants of the Five Points area in Columbia, SC, petition the city to put a stop to installing any new parking meters throughout the area known as Five Points.

“Merchants, knowing their customers, feel that the inconvenience of these meters will deter them from supporting their businesses.

“Five Points has always been known as an inviting place of business and in its best interest we strongly feel that the presence of parking meters sends the wrong message, not to mention the inconvenience to our customers.”

Again, 23 Five Points merchants affirmed this in two days.

In the summer of 1995, Dr. William R. Sandberg pulled together a team of six USC MBA students to spend a couple of months surveying the Five Points parking situation for demand, studying nine downtown parking garages for financial feasibility, and concluding with cogent recommendations.

Their recommendations came with the analyses in one publication, which was distributed to the Five Points Merchants Association. They had a rough sketch for a garage in Yesterday’s lot, replete with retail on the street level and 20 condominiums on the top level, all within the city’s height limitation of 50 feet. The idea was to push the business owners and the employees into the garage, while the customers could pull up in front of the stores, Five Points style.

The USC MBA report even included a firm financial feasibility real estate pro forma for the garage, something the city could have used before they got too far along with the first headquarters Hilton, the one never to turn a profit.

None of the data from the students’ surveys and none of their report are cited in any material covered in the city’s current parking pursuit. The city simply says that parking meters are necessary for the economic viability of Five Points and that a garage is not feasible.

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