Despite opposition, proposal for Ridge Avenue parking spaces at Inn Yard Park move forward

Members of the East Falls Community Council approved a plan on Monday night that will bring increased parking to the neighborhood’s Ridge Avenue business corridor.

Presented by Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation, the proposal will bring approximately 10 parking spaces to the west side of Ridge Avenue, adjacent to the Inn Yard Park. In addition, a pedestrian crosswalk will be installed at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Stanton Street.

To accommodate the parking spaces, the sidewalk along Inn Yard Park will be cut into by eight-feet. As part of the design – undertaken by the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation’s Capital Programs – 259-sq. feet of the park will be removed to ensure a uniform sidewalk width of eight-feet throughout.

At present, the park has a gradual taper along its eastern border, resulting in a sidewalk that expands from 13-ft. to 16-ft. heading northbound. Snyder explained that Dept. of Parks and Recreation insisted upon a uniform sidewalk diameter of eight-feet, and added that the Streets Department has approved all traffic safety and pedestrian crossing plans.

Funding for the project will be provided through the office of 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., and is estimated to cost upwards of $100,000. Final design work and installation will be handled by Parks and Recreation, which will provide Snyder with a completion date when determined.

Neighborhood opposition

Conceptual plans for additional Ridge Avenue parking were included in the “East Falls Reconnects to the River” proposal, which was adopted by EFDC in 2003 and subsequently approved by the EFCC.

While the additional parking was presented as a means of alleviating neighborhood and business district parking woes – along with drawing additional customers into the district, thus combating high vacancy rates along the Ridge Avenue corridor – some community members voiced pointed opposition to the plan.

A letter distributed at the meeting by the Friends of Inn Yard Park outlined the criticisms, which were directed at perceptions of lost visibility for the park, the promotion of “driveability” over “walkability,” and the loss of green space and trees. In addition, the group questioned the evidence that supported EFDC’s plans, suggesting an absence of dedicated studies.

Community resident George Grigonis presented FIYP’s concerns. He said that the plan for parking was not a new idea that would “magically invigorate” East Falls’ business district.

“The challenges to having a vibrant commercial landscape are not about providing a convenience for cars,” said Grigonis, “it’s about serving the community, which is only steps away.”

Support from the business corridor 

Some residents were upset over the loss of trees along the Ridge Avenue sidewalk.

While Snyder was not offered a direct rebuttal, she mentioned in her earlier presentation that the trees were originally planted on a temporary basis to help combat illegal parking along the sidewalk. She signaled a commitment to replant or replace any lost trees.

Jim Williamson, co-owner of Slices’ Pizza on Ridge Avenue, supported the proposal, saying he couldn’t stress enough the importance of parking along the corridor, particularly as a means of addressing the large amount of vacancies in the area.

“As important as parking is for long-standing business, it’s that much more important for a new businesses,” he said.

Williamson’s eight-year-old business was specifically mentioned in Snyder’s initial presentation – Slices endured a 30-percent drop in business subsequent to the removal of parking. To encourage support for the proposal, Williamson collected over 300 signatures of support from residents, business owners, and visitors.

“We’ve been waiting eight years,” he said, “and we really need it.”

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