By Linda Dillman
Despite the addition of a new municipal lot, parking is still perceived by some to be an obstacle in visiting businesses in the heart of Canal Winchester.
“Parking is downtown Canal Winchester’s biggest problem,” said Dr. William Mills, who owns a practice at 11 N. High St.
Mills feels an additional 100 parking spaces are needed to meet the requirements of existing vacant offices and service areas. He said a new downtown business that moved into the area last year can eventually employ up to 40 people.
“If each employee drove their own car, then that business alone would take up to one half of the available parking spaces,” Mills believes.
According to Mills, there are approximately 10 medical providers within a block of Waterloo and High streets. He said mostly older patients visit the doctors and reported many of them cannot walk to and from the newest parking lot across near Guiler Park. He said more free municipal parking is also needed to accommodate government offices, the local sheriff’s office, and other event functions like Labor Day, the Ribfest and Christmas in the Village.
“Business properties remain vacant because there are no places for employees and customers to park,” said Mills. “Additional parking needs are the result of the rapid growth of Canal Winchester. The village of Canal Winchester had barely enough parking for the businesses that are here. Since Canal Winchester has become a city due to rapid growth, there is not enough parking to accommodate the increase in businesses.”
However, Canal Winchester City Development Director Luca Haire said any time there is growth and change in a downtown there are people that have the perception that there is/will be a lack of available parking.
“The city of Canal Winchester has tried to address this perception for years,” said Haire. “The city administration and elected leaders realize the success of the historic Old Town area over the last decade has led to increased business and vitality within this portion of the city.”
“The streets are more active with diners, shoppers, and people doing business with various establishments,” said Haire. “This has led to a number of improvements to accommodate these residents and visitors to help this portion of our city continue to prosper.”
According to Haire, in 2004 the city undertook a major construction project to construct 52 public parking places along Tow Path alley adjacent to interurban building and behind what would become Stradley Place.
In 2009 the public parking lot behind the community center was restriped to more efficiently layout the space. The parking count went from approximately 40 spaces to 60 spaces based on this change. This lot was later amended in 2015 to allow a connection to East Waterloo Street in 2015 and gained another two spaces for a total of 62 spaces.
Another 29 public parking spaces were added in 2015 behind the former McDorman Auto Museum to accommodate additional parking needs of the museum, the community center, Shade on the Canal, and other businesses.
Fairfield County Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Forest Cassel said parking enforcement in downtown, limited to two hours during specified times, is driven primarily by complaint.
In 2015, the city added signs throughout the historic district to direct people to available public parking lots since hearing from a number of businesses in the Old Town area that customers from out of town had no idea where they were allowed to park. Signs were added on all major corridors in Old Town directing people to public lots.
“Artistic bike racks were added in two locations in the Old Town area in 2017 to encourage more people to bicycle to the area, therefore reducing the need to public parking,” said Haire.
In 2018, the city opened a new public parking lot at the corner of Washington Street and Towing Path Alley. The lot contains 43 public parking spaces.
“The lot was identified in the 2017 Old Town Plan to encourage additional development and redevelopment along the West Waterloo Street corridor and to support the growing businesses in this area,” said Haire.
In 2018, a public sidewalk was added along North High Street at the railroad tracks to enhance pedestrian safety and access to the Old Town area. The walkway, along with a widened sidewalk along Tow Path Alley, was added to encourage walking to Old Town to lessen the need for parking.
“As you can see, there have been numerous projects completed to enhance the accessibility for residents and visitors so they can enjoy our Old Town area without worrying about where they are going to park,” said Haire.