Changes, improvements to downtown parking in the works
A parking meter is shown across the street from the Brick City Center For The Arts on Southwest Broadway Street in Ocala, Fla. on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
Downtown Ocala features a plethora of options for restaurants, bars, entertainment and music, plus over 2,100 parking spaces—yet, it seems like no one can ever find a parking spot.
After decades of needing another parking garage, in 2022 the city purchased the lot of the Mount Moriah Baptist Church for the site of a new parking garage. Construction is set to begin in October of this year, but in the meantime, how will the city alleviate its need for more downtown parking?
The parking meters downtown are difficult to use, hard to read and are not ADA compliant for people with visual impairments. To remedy this, the city is changing the meters to have an instructional panel to make it clearer on how to use them, and the colors featured in the background will be neutral so that the text is contrasting and easier to read.
Metered parking spots now cost 50 cents an hour, which will change in various places.
The proposed price increases for the downtown meters are intended to promote turnover, so that more spots will be vacant at a time. The city plans to incentivize the use of the parking lots, which will be improved for efficiency.
Parking spots north of State Road 40 will increase to 75 cents an hour. This area also has two free parking lots for those who do not wish to pay for metered parking.
Metered spaces south of SR 40 will increase to $1.25 an hour to increase turnover of spots.
Enforcement times for parking in metered spots will also change to Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Parking lot enforcement times will change to Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The increase in revenue will go toward parking lot improvements, lighting, wayfinding and mobility improvements along sidewalks. “Wayfinding” includes the posts with directions for main areas around downtown. The current signs have been up for over a decade and need replacing, in addition to improvements for lot signage to make it clearer on where parking is allowed.
The metered parking spots at the downtown square will no longer have 10-hour durations, they will be shortened to three hours, like the majority of other parking spots.
As for the existing parking lots that have lower fees and more spaces, many of them have poor or confusing signage, confusing striping, are not accessible to the public during the day, and aren’t generating enough revenue to cover repair and maintenance costs.
While these proposed changes are not final, city staff said they hope to improve the parking situation as soon as possible to make sure that locals and visitors alike have the chance to visit downtown Ocala.
A downtown community outreach meeting is set for March 7 to discuss parking, loading zones, trash, future construction and homelessness.
Parking Garage 1
The public parking garage just north of Ocala City Hall has 400 total spaces, 280 of which are open to the public. Of those spaces, 29 spots are rented for $35 a month, typically to downtown residents. The Hilton Garden Inn contracts with the city for the remaining 120 spaces, which are reserved for hotel guests.
Parking Lot 7
At the heart of downtown at First Avenue and Broadway Street, Parking Lot 7 has improvements in the works to increase the amount of parking spaces it offers and to make the existing spaces in the lot available to the public.
The lot currently has 36 spaces, which are contracted by nearby businesses that pay $20 per space per month.
The private parking signs will be removed from this lot within the next two weeks, and patrons can park in these spots for 75 cents per hour or for $5 per day, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
The city is also planning on adding 12 spaces to this lot after shortening the center median and utilizing the lot’s space differently.
The rate of 75 cents per hour is lower than the cost for street parking along these streets, which the city hopes will help free up parking on the street to allow for at least one spot open on every block at a time.
“We’ve looked at the potential of expanding this lot and adding some additional spaces. So, if we bring this lot online for public parking, we’re introducing 36 more spaces into the downtown area,” said Rachel Fautsch, community outreach manager for Ocala. “We can add 12 spaces to this lot, so that would add 48 parking spaces to the downtown area.”
Parking Lot 9
Also known as the Collier Lot, this parking lot just west of La Cuisine at Southwest Broadway Street and Southwest First Avenue is a contracted lot that offers parking for $4.50 a day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The city-owned parking lot has 20 spaces. For the businesses that rent this lot, the rate will increase from $20 per space per month to $90.
Parking Lot 14
The Mount Moriah Baptist Church parking lot is owned by the church and is free to park. The church utilizes the parking lot on Sundays for its patrons. This area will see demolition next fall in preparation for becoming downtown’s second parking garage.
Parking Lot 2
This lot at the First Presbyterian Church is located a few blocks outside of the downtown corridor at the corner of Second Street and Tuscawilla Avenue.
This 85-space lot is owned by the church but used by the city for overflow parking of city vehicles; 29 spaces are rented to nearby businesses.
This lot offers free public parking on nights and on weekends. Those wishing to use the Ocala Main Street Shuttle trolley service can park in this lot and take the shuttle downtown on Friday and Saturday nights.
Marion Theatre Lot
This lot is owned by the city but contracted by the theater for parking for its patrons.
This lot is not available for public parking other than for patrons of the Marion Theatre.
Parking Lot 13
While this lot on the northwest corner of SR 40 and Magnolia Avenue does not offer public parking during the day, that could soon change. This lot is only available to use after 5 p.m. or on weekends, but the city is working on amending its contract with the owner to open up 36 spaces for use.
These spaces could soon be available to use for 75 cents an hour or $5 a day on weekdays.
Parking Lot 5
This lot is located east of the Mainstreet Community Bank, 112 N Magnolia Ave.
“This lot is owned by the city; however, it’s a catalytic site so it’s likely to be developed in the upcoming years,” Fautsch said. The area nearby is changing and growing quickly, and the city expects a demand for parking in this lot in the future.
The lot has 82 spaces, 62 of which are rented to nearby businesses. The spaces marked in red are contracted and not available, but all other spaces are free for public parking. Signage in this lot has been updated to show that parking is free in these select spots.
Parking Lot 6
Also known as the “jurors’ lot,” this parking lot neighboring the Marion County Courthouse is primarily used for courthouse visitors.
With 96 spaces, this lot offers free parking all day, every day.
The city plans to keep this lot the same, so drivers can take advantage of this lot, which usually has vacant spaces open during the latter half of the week once jury duty completes. With the future development of a hotel and potential new restaurants nearby, this lot may be reevaluated in the future to have pay stations.
“At any given time driving by that lot, I’ve noticed it between 50% and 100% capacity depending on the day of the week. Mondays are more full and then as the week goes on, capacity decreases,” Fautsch said.
Parking Lot 10
This parking lot is for the Visitors and Convention Bureau at 109 W Silver Springs Blvd. and is owned by the county.
The lot has 34 parking spaces, which are used by the county from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but can be used for free parking at all other times.