FORT WORTH -- We think there’s parking near West Seventh Street, but mostly there’s not. We think there’s nowhere to park near Magnolia Avenue, but there almost always is.
As Fort Worth’s population nears 900,000, a city built on the wide-open prairie is coming to grips with urban traffic and the loss of a former point of pride: plenty of free parking.
Development in the Cultural District, south and north sides — much under more recent standards that encourage business density and walking instead of front-door parking lots — has led to confusion and conflict over what’s private property, and exactly where to put a Ford F-150 truck.
Maybe Sundance Square has spoiled us.
The downtown shopping development offers 5,400 free parking spaces nights and weekends in lots and garages, with public money subsidizing 2,300 of those.
“I’m a big believer in planning for parking,” said Sundance chief executive Johnny Campbell, a 35-year veteran of downtown shopping developments nationwide. “There’s a transition between where we are today and when we’re all riding hovercrafts to our final destination. But we’re not there yet.”
The sacred cow of parking
Maybe we just feel entitled to free parking in Fort Worth. A half-century ago, the old Leonards Department Store downtown actually operated a mile-long private trolley and subway line between the basement of the Houston Street store and a 3,000-space lot near where Panther Island is now.
In 1991, when the City Council first debated charging to park at Will Rogers Memorial Center, museums and nearby businesses led a public outcry.
Then-Councilman David Chappell said: “We’re anxious that there not be any sacred cows. … This one may prove to be too sacred of a cow.”
It would be nearly 20 years before the City Council imposed a parking fee, in 2010, to pay off the 1,117-space Western Heritage Garage.
Another new, 2,200-space garage is under construction for the new Dickies Arena.
On social media, complaints about the $5-$10 garage parking fee mostly come from patrons of two near-monthly gun shows.
“If you’re going to charge to park,” a California visitor wrote on TripAdvisor.com, “make it a couple of bucks, not an arm and a leg.”
But just beneath, another visitor wrote: “Parking staff was great and plenty of parking.”
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