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City lawmakers take up downtown's parking problem

Mike Desmond

A gap is beginning to develop between Buffalo Place, which represents downtown business interests, and City Hall over the parking situation in the Central Business District.

The issue comes up Tuesday morning before the Common Council Finance Committee.

Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer is slated to present the city's plan to open up 750 parking spaces downtown by removing restrictions on spaces all over the business district, raising rates and extending payment hours to as late as 10 p.m. The plan does not call for a new parking ramp, partially because of an estimated $20 million cost.

Buffalo Place Chair Keith Belanger said his group has problems with some of the proposals.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Like charging for parking after hours," he said. "We have several thousand people living in downtown now, who park on the street and then drive to work someplace the next day, or we have patrons of our bars and restaurants. I don't know that we are quite ready to start charging for parking on the street at night."

Both sides agree much of the pressure on parking spaces reflects the greater resident population downtown and more people coming into the area for  anight out on the town. It would get worse if a surface parking lot with 400 spaces on Ellicott Street is replaced by 201 units of affordable housing, as planned.

Buffalo Place's new parking study is expected to say there is already a shortage of 1,500 parking spaces.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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