CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City officials say they've come up with a short-term solution to deal with parking issues for employees who work at downtown businesses.
Josh Martin, the Senior Adviser to the Mayor, said a plan for a "park to ride" location on Morrison Drive has been in the works for roughly four to five months.
"We know that employee parking is a huge issue," Martin said. "Not only from cost and availability but even to preventing some businesses from hiring people just because of the fact they can't have access to parking."
Several businesses downtown have been dealing with the latter.
Karen Melissas owns Kids on King and said she hasn't been able to hire employees because of parking.
"They have got to figure it out and it's got to come quickly," she said. "Holiday season is starting, I need more employees. I know other people around me, businesses, need more employees."
"One of the interviewees couldn't even make it here," said Fatma Aydin, owner of Myth Café, around the corner from Melissas's business. "She wanted to come in, passed by the shop looking for a parking spot and couldn't find it. She said you know what, I can't go through this hassle every day."
Martin said the land on Morrison Drive (995, 997, and 999) is owned by the city and Charleston County.
Preliminary conceptual design plans estimate between 200 and 300 parking spots for downtown merchant employees and owners.
Next week a team of city employees will meet with an engineering firm to further develop conceptual renders of the site.
The location will allow employees to be shuttled to locations in the central business district via CARTA.
The city also wants to make sure there will be significantly reduced prices to park.
"[We want to make sure] employees aren't spending all of their earnings on parking to come to work," Martin said.
"That's a great solution to the situation," Melissas said. "I think it will remedy some of the situation."
"It will be very practical and it there wouldn't be really a traffic issue for everyone else," Aydin added. "Yeah, very nice."
The Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and CARTA have also been working closely with city and County officials to make this plan a reality.
Martin said the hope is to open the lot by the end of the year, but they're focused right now on making sure the lot will be safe and secured for drivers.
"We want to make sure we have the appropriate security, lighting, signage, and shelters," he said. "We want this to be a very good experience for people who are using it. The transit has to be predictable, reliable, so people can get back and forth from the lot."
While the cost has not been finalized, Martin estimates it could fall in the $300,000 and $500,000 ballpark for renovations at the site.
As part of a long-term solution to the vast parking issues downtown, the city is also working on a comprehensive parking study for the first time in 20 years.
That study is currently out to bid for companies to give the city proposals about what needs to be changed and cost estimates.