Parking continues to be an issue in Fondren, but relief could soon be on the way.
The city of Jackson is looking at several options to improve parking in the Northside community.
Components of a plan could include the parking limits at certain areas in the Fondren Business District, as well as permits for long-term parking on residential streets.
Director of Planning Mukesh Kumar said he hopes to have a plan in place by the end of the year.
“At least we should know what our parking demands are and how we want to meet (them),” he said. “(Fondren) clearly does not have a sustainable model of parking.”
Parking in the business district has been a problem for years, and has only gotten worse with the major streetscape project under way.
An additional green space that has been used for visitors to Duling Hall is also now unavailable for parking due to the construction of a Trustmark National Bank there.
“Some type of traffic control is needed, whether its parking meters or another solution,” said Barry Plunkett, owner of Interiors Market at 659 Duling Ave.
Plunkett said a large number of spaces in his shopping center’s parking lot are taken every morning by medical professionals or students.
“We are encroached upon every weekday morning by medical personnel who park here before we get to our shops and they’re there all day long,” he said.
Plunkett is located in the Woodland Hills Shopping Center, which is located along Old Canton Road and Duling Avenue.
He said he and other business owners in the center have “on purpose gotten to work at 7:30 to watch who gets out of the cars. Nine times out of 10 they’re in scrubs or medical attire and they all head south on Old Canton Road, on foot.”
Businesses there include McDade’s Market, Brent’s Drugs, Fondren Cellars and others.
He wasn’t sure if those individuals were headed toward the University of Mississippi Medical Center or other medical facilities located south of the center on Lakeland Drive.
“We don’t serve lunch anymore because of the parking. People came to us because they could get in and out in a hurry, but if you can’t park that defeats the purpose,” he said.
The business district is bordered by Old Canton and North State Street, and includes Fondren Avenue, Duling Avenue, Morgan Place and Fondren Place.
The parking problem has been exacerbated in recent months with the Fondren Streetscape Project. Several spaces have been temporarily torn up so sidewalks can be replaced as part of the $2.7 million project.
Fondren Renaissance Foundation (FRF) Jim Wilkirson and Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay met with Kumar last week and were expected to meet with him again this week.
“We had previously discussed the option of looking at parking meters … in the business district, and it was felt that the timing was not right (for meters) and we should explore something in the interim,” Wilkirson said.
“We are looking at doing one-hour and two-hour parking, depending on the location within the area where the new sidewalks are being placed. But part of the concern is that it may push the people who come to the area, such as UMMC students and employees … into the residential area.”
To combat that problem, the city is exploring the idea of neighborhood parking permits.
Kumar said parking permits are common in many other cities. “With the permit, you can park all day and all night,” he said. “Without it … (we would) maybe allow for one-hour parking, so the street parking would largely be limited to residents.”
Gail Sweat, executive director of the Mississippi Kidney Foundation, agrees that parking in the business district is a huge problem. She’s worried parking will be more challenging with the completion of the Trustmark building and two new hotels planned for North State.
The foundation is located in the 3000 Building, at 3000 Old Canton Rd. “ A lot of people come at 7 or 7:30 a.m. to park and they’re there until 5:30. The management here has had cars towed, but it’s hard to catch them,” she said.