Johnstown working to address downtown parking concerns

PHOTOGRAPHER:

McLemon’s Boutique owner Jessica Henry McClements stands in the parking lot behind her business at N Market and N Perry Street in Johnstown Wednesday

JOHNSTOWN – Downtown Johnstown doesn’t have a parking issue – it has a perceived parking issue.

That’s according to Jessica Henry McClements, who leads the Downtown Johnstown Business and Professional Association.

McClements and the business association have lobbied the city to put up signs and repave three public parking lots so residents and visitors know they have more options beyond street parking. City leaders say they agree with the perceived parking concern and are working to mitigate the problem.

“The issue is that people don’t realize we have the off-street parking, so everyone is fighting for the parking spots right out in front of businesses,” said McClements, who owns the McLemon’s boutique on West Main Street. “In the two blocks that are heavy with businesses, there are three, large public parking lots that are not signed to say that they are public parking.”

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On a tour of two of the lots, McClements pointed out potholes, crumbling medians and – in the lot behind her store – a plastic speed bump that is not attached to the ground.

The lot behind West Main Street between N. Market and N. Perry streets has room for a couple dozen cars. That lot also features a lighted pedestrian walkway out to W. Main Street. A larger lot is on S. Market Street across from Citizens Bank. The third public lot–which is actually made up of two smaller lots–is across the street from the Fulton County Courthouse and has room for roughly 50 cars.
City Engineer Chris Vose said the city is in the process of figuring out what kind of signage to order for all the lots. He estimated the signs would be up no later than the summer and would cost no more than $1,000.

Vose said the repaving was a bigger investment–to the tune of about $100,000 – and has been included in the city’s more than $12 million bond request. That request is currently on hold as Treasurer Thomas Herr works to complete missing annual financial reports from 2018, 2019 and 2020 that are dragging down the city’s credit rating. Those reports are expected to be completed later this month, at which time the city plans to put the bond request out for bid.

Mayor Amy Praught said not having signs and well-paved lots is a deterrent to visitors.

“When you come into downtown to shop or eat lunch, you don’t know there are parking lots behind the buildings on each side of [Main] Street unless you are familiar with the area,” Praught said.

Vose said fixing the perceived parking issue will better welcome visitors to downtown.

“People don’t want to park two or three blocks away from their destination, especially this time of year,” Vose said.

The perceived parking shortage affects traffic at downtown businesses, McClements said.

“We have customers that say I’ve been wanting to stop by and check out your shop, but I can never find any parking. And I’m like there is a huge parking lot right behind my building. If only you could find it.”

David Warren, owner of The Game Guys on N. Market Street, said he’d welcome improvements to the parking lots.

“People aren’t going to stop in if there is no place to park,” Warren said. “Anytime people have a place to park and come see your shop, of course you’re going to have more traffic.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

More from Johnstown – The Leader-Herald

By Andrew Waite

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