Downtown Conway parking, a growing dilemma

(KATV) Conway - Growing pains in Conway creates apush for more parking. People who live in, or visit downtown Conway understandsthat challenge well.

The parking problem comes on theheels of a recently released Census Bureau report that Faulkner County is oneof the top 100 fastest growing counties.

Parking isn't a new issue indowntown, but as the city grows, so is the problem. Business owners worry thatcustomers will just keep driving if that can't find a parking spot.

When the sun rises, thousands of cars fill downtown Conway. Brad Lacy is the President andDEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. He says, "You could go back 10or 15 years and we certainly would not have had this conversation."

Lacy says they have attractedmore businesses and residents over the past decade, but surface parking has notkept up. With every corner already established, the only way to go is up. Heexplains, "It would have to be a parking deck. That's the only way you can getthat kind of density of parking."

When asked about the parkingsituation, Kathy Brooks says, "There is none. You have to park next to the railroadtracks because there is no parking anywhere, especially during the day. Youhave all the restaurants everywhere so there is none at all."

Brooks' family owns and operates BrooksFine Jewelry, Kathy's upholstery and they manage about five buildings indowntown. She says more parking has been in talks for years and it's timebecause it will make way for more opportunities. "We need it really bad."

In January, Brad Lacy told the ConwayCity Council that parking is the biggest issue facing Conway. He has studiedlarger cities to benchmark off of and all have a parking deck. He says theentire city has to be attractive to stay competitive.

Lacy adds, "It's a good problemto have. I mean we're certainly not complaining because the reverse is not goodat all." He concludes, "In downtown, people want to see shops, restaurants,residential, hotels and any one of those require parking to be addressed."

The final decision will be a collaborativeeffort with the city. Lacy says details like if they'll charge for parking andwhat part of downtown the parking deck will go, are crucial to it being asuccess. The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce also wants the community to get involved.