Hope for parking in Highlandtown: A new nonprofit percolates

A new nonprofit might make it easier to find a parking space in Highlandtown. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

Can’t park in Highlandtown at night? You’re not alone in your frustration.

Parking in the evenings is getting tight, and is expected to get tougher as the neighborhood becomes more of a cultural and entertainment destination, says Chris Ryer, director of the Southeast Community Development Corporation.

To improve the nighttime parking situation for both residents and visitors, the Southeast CDC has created a parking nonprofit, HOPE LLC, which hopes to lease space in Highlandtown businesses’ vacant parking lots at night and charge an hourly fee for parking.

“HOPE plans to lease not only lots but parking machines as well, the same type the city uses,” says Ryer. “The tentative cost to park will be approximately $2 per hour. That’s our break-even point, a little higher than we expected, but still a good deal. We’re not making money on this.”

Why is the Southeast CDC, an organization that promotes home ownership and community development, getting into the parking business?

Because, according to Ryer, adequate parking promotes community development.

“Highlandtown needs more parking, and it needs it right now. I have already heard from Creative Alliance that some patrons who bought tickets for events would drive in to Highlandtown and end up driving back home, because they couldn’t find a place to park,” he says.

Ryer says he has no doubt that other venues will eventually be in the same boat, and he is planning for the arts and entertainment district’s future parking needs.

He says that at this point, the parking nonprofit is still an idea.

“We have a proposal in to M&T Bank headquarters,” he says, referring to the parking lot that HOPE would like to lease at 3401 Eastern Ave.

“If M&T Bank agrees, we will try to lease space in other lots as well, working our way east, adding additional lots as demand dictates,” Ryer says, adding that fixing parking problems by using existing lots is good for the whole neighborhood—businesses, arts organizations, and residents.

“Last year, there was serious interest in turning Haussner’s into a brew pub, but there was no parking and it fell through. Right now, we have at least three large vacant buildings on Eastern Ave.: the old BMS Building, the Haussner’s Building, and the old SEYA building. If someone buys and renovates those buildings, where will people park?” he asks.

Ryer is optimistic about the project, which he believes will begin in earnest in early 2014.

“There’s lots of vacant space in the neighborhood at night. I think that utilizing this kind of space, in terms of improving parking, is the wave of the future.”

by Danielle Sweeney

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