Businesses wary of losing Cornwall parking




Businesses along Cornwall Avenue may soon have to encourage customers to ride their bikes or find somewhere else to park if the Bellingham City Council approves a proposal to remove street parking along Cornwall from York to Illinois streets.

The council will consider the proposal at its June 23 meeting. The city’s Parking Commission has already endorsed the plan to remove 88 street parking spots along the west side of the street to make room for bike lanes on each side of the road.

The west side of the street was chosen because it has fewer parking spaces than the east side and would cause the least impact, according to city staff. The project arose out of the current project to replace a 90-year-old water main in the street and because the city’s comprehensive plan identifies Cornwall Avenue as an important access road to downtown that is in need of bike lanes.

Already troubled by months of construction on the water main, businesses along Cornwall may still feel the impacts of fewer available parking spots.

“I like the idea of more people riding their bikes, but we are already short on parking spaces,” said Brian Porter, operations manager for the Bellingham Athletic Club, located at 1616 Cornwall Ave. just north of the intersection with York Street.

The athletic club has a parking lot but shares it with the rest of the businesses in the building, which creates an often cramped situation. As a result, many club members are forced to park on the street, Porter said.

For businesses without parking lots, such as Cosmic Comics, the potential loss of street parking could severely hurt business, said manager Joe Peters.

Sales at the store took a dive during several days of road construction that blocked street parking in front of the business, Peters said.

“When all the parking was gone it pretty heavily impacted our sales,” he said.

At DeWaard & Bode, manager Curt Grady said he isn’t worried about the change in street parking. Like the athletic club, DeWaard & Bode has a parking lot and shares it with surrounding businesses.

However, the appliance store strictly monitors the lot to ensure that only customers are parking there, Grady said, and he expects any overflow from the lack of street parking would be negated.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a customer have to park in the street,” he said.

Policing parking lots is something most downtown businesses already do, since parking in the area is limited, said Gary Holloway, manager for the Public Market on Cornwall Avenue. Holloway said he and other employees consistently check the parking lot for cars that are parked all day or staying overnight.

Though the street parking in front of the market will remain because it’s located south of York Street, Holloway said the market’s parking lot could become more crowded if the plan is approved.

“There’s a perception that it’s a free lot,” he said. In reality, neighboring businesses pay for the ability to offer those spaces to their customers.

The addition of bike lanes on Cornwall could be a potential benefit for the Public Market, though, Holloway said. Many market patrons already ride their bikes to the store and the presence of bike lanes could bring more people into downtown.

“It would link the neighborhoods to downtown,” he said. “If people feel safer biking in the bike lanes, then it increases people’s likelihood of riding a bike.”

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