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Downtown Business Owners Call For Fewer Cars, More People

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RALEIGH — Restaurants and shops are a common site in the Glenwood South area of Raleigh, but business owners say it could all be in jeopardy if the city does not create a new plan for parking.

At the heart of the problem is a 31-year-old city ordinance that requires one parking spot for every 50 square feet of business space, and some say there is not enough land for both.

"They just tell me there's not a lot to offer downtown, and they haven't been here really to see what's available," says Serena Milne, a downtown business owner.

Milne says when most people think of downtown Raleigh a lot of options do not come to mind. Therefore, she and other business owners are organizing an event to show what the booming urban area has to offer.

"You can't make an urban area if you have a building, then parking lot, building, parking lot and so on," says Pem Mancuso, who bought into the idea of developing downtown when he purchased his restaurant last May.

He had plans to expand his business until the parking became a problem. However, turning the space into a 4,000 square foot restaurant requires him to provide 80 parking spots in an area with limited space.

"If you have a bunch of parking lots, you don't have street life," Mancuso said, "and people will not come."

"It's not a place for people, it's a place for cars," says district planner Martin Stankus.

Stankus devised a plan that would cut the old parking requirements almost in half. At the same time, he wants to make it easier for people to get around on foot by extending sidewalks, adding lighting and routing optional forms of transportation to the area.

"We're trying to allow more flexibility there, and establish a more urban pattern," Stankus said.

Mancuso says parking is not always necessary for a business to thrive because if the food is worth it, people will get there any way they can.

"I think people are willing to walk five or six blocks for what's going to be down here," he said.

There will be a public hearing Tuesday night to discuss the planning department's proposal.

In addition to cutting the number of required parking spaces the plan also increases the distance between business and parking lots from 800 to 1,200 feet.

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Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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