By Paola Tristan Arruda | October 15, 2020 at 9:21 PM EDT - Updated October 15 at 9:21 PM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston may be looking to get rid of minimum parking requirements for businesses on King Street. The proposal, brought on by a city councilman, hopes to bring the heart of the historic district back on its feet.
Under the city of Charleston’s zoning ordinance, new businesses that want to open must provide a certain number of parking spaces based on factors like the type of business and size.
While the requirement is not a problem for most places in the city, it can be a difficult process for core commercial areas like King Street.
“Physically, there is often nowhere to park on a site. What ends up happening is, in order to open a new restaurant, new office, or even condos or apartments on second and third story buildings, small businesses have to go and purchase parking spots or purchase leases for sometimes tens, sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars,” City councilman Ross Appel said. “It makes it very expensive and complicated for these businesses to open and contributes to the vacancies we are seeing on King Street.”
Appel’s proposal is to focus on a limited area of the street, potentially from Calhoun Street to Market Street, as an experimental project. He says that way, they can minimize any potential spillover effects for nearby neighborhoods.
Although this idea is in the very early stages, city officials are looking into it.
City of Charleston’s Planning Director Jacob Lindsey says city staff looked into 13 similar cities to Charleston and found that 12 of them had eliminated or lowered their requirements for their city center’s parking.
“The idea is that by lowering the number of parking spaces that are required for businesses to open and stay open, it can be one less piece of bureaucratic red tape that we can eliminate to help our business community,” Lindsey said. "We might be behind the times and it seems this is a good time for an update [to this requirement].
City officials say this measure would only apply to designated commercial areas and would not happen in residential areas. When the plan becomes more concrete, there will be extensive outreach and collaboration done with communities, neighborhoods, and organizations.
This effort is also just one of many things city officials say they are looking at to help the city’s center recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The Central Business District Improvement Commission is also considering measures for beautification and safety enhancements.
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