CLARKSVILLE, TN (NOW CLARKSVILLE) – Construction of two parking garages will begin soon, adding more than 1,300 new spaces to downtown Clarksville. While these projects are underway, parking may be an issue downtown for a few months after the 6,000 capacity F&M Bank Arena opens.
Local authorities are working to relieve parking while continuing to promote their commercial redevelopment districts. The latest move, courtesy of Austin Peay State University, will free up an additional 1,200 surface parking spaces within walking distance of the arena, for a total of 2,700 spaces.
What is a redevelopment district?
“Redevelopment districts are strategic areas within the city or county that are obviously not at their most invested use, and there’s usually a reason they don’t grow naturally,” Buck Dellinger, president and chief economic development officer of Clarksville-Montgomery Council county, said this week in a Clarksville’s Conversation podcast.
He noted that the reason these areas might not develop could be a structural problem or a lack of population density. In the case of downtown Clarksville, nearly half of the area is floodplain.
In order to attract business to these sites, a TIF (tax increase financing) district can be created to incentivize businesses to develop the land. Incentives could include repairing infrastructure or even expanding parking.
Dellinger explained that the goal of economic redevelopment districts is to attract more businesses that benefit from the tax base. He said parking is part of those local projects, but downtown is maximized on surface parking.
“Structured parking is kind of the key to that. Otherwise we just have a lot of parking lots and not a lot of development,” he said.
“We have three elements to support downtown parking for the F&M Bank Arena. Two structured garages and the Austin Peay surface parking lot that are all around College Street, Main Street and Franklin Street,” Dellinger said.
The parking lot in front of the F&M Bank Arena is expected to be completed in the winter of 2023-24, approximately six months after the arena opens. The project is supervised by the EDC and is expected to provide 720 additional parking spaces.
Another parking lot is being built behind the Roxy Regional Theater which will add approximately 580 spaces. This project is under the umbrella of the City of Clarksville and will connect to the existing Cumberland parking garage next door, according to Dellinger. Once construction is complete, approximately 800 places will be available.
In addition to the parking garages, the APSU will allow visitors to use their surface parking spaces during major events in the arenas. “What we’re looking at is 1,200 surface parking spaces,” Dellinger said.
From a certain point of view, this should meet the immediate needs. “We had consultants work out how many parking spots you need for a 5,500-seat arena, and it was around 1,250.”
But Dellinger said that figure does not include parking the additional 300 people who will work in the arena during an event. Plus, there are all the other downtown retail and food outlets that will require parking.
Total of 2,700 places to come
Ultimately, approximately 2,700 spaces will be available for the arena and other downtown visitors between the parking lots and APSU spaces:
- Square Riverview parking lot (to be built): 720 spaces
- Roxy/First Street parking lot (to be built): 580 spaces
- Cumberland parking lot: 220 spaces
- APSU surface car parks: 1,200 spaces
But with the F&M Bank Arena hosting its first event in July 2023, six months before the parking lots open, there will be some initial parking issues.
“If there is a sold-out event, it would be at capacity,” Dellinger said at an EDC meeting earlier this month.
A worst-case scenario could include an event in which there is a sold-out event at both the arena and the Roxy Regional Theater, resulting in parking congestion. But Dellinger explained that preparing for these kinds of situations, such as building 5,000 parking spaces for example, is ultimately not worth the cost.
“If that happens, then we will find out. Otherwise you kind of overbuild,” he said in the podcast. “By the way, the cost of a structured parking spot is around $15,000 to $20,000 per spot. So (if) you’re building over 100 seats for this event every five years, that’s a lot of money.