Downtown Davidson merchant Betty Reinke knows she's lost several potential customers over the years because of downtown parking.
"I'll have people tell me later, 'Oh I was going to stop by today but I couldn't find a place to park,'" said Reinke, who co-owns Main Street Books. "It needs to be addressed. We've been having this discussion for years."
Many downtown merchants share a similar sentiment, said town manager Leamon Brice.
"There's just not enough parking in that area to contain all of the people who work there," he said.
Responding to their feedback, town officials hired a national consulting firm to address parking in downtown. Last week, Michigan-based Rich & Associates, Inc., released their findings to town officials and stakeholders.
Among some of the major suggestions in the lengthy report:
Improve visibility and presence of downtown parking signs;
Avoid downtown parking meters;
Add bicycle racks to encourage bicyclists;
Form a special events parking plan;
Avoid parking garages or new private parking lots;
Establish a residential permit program;
Establish parking spaces for compact cars only.
Brice said he expects town commissioners to include some of the recommendations in next year's budget, even if the report hasn't been finalized.
Downtown store owners, including Megan Blackwell of The Village Store, applauded the town's response to merchant concerns.
"With a lot of downtowns, there's always that stigma attached to not being able to park right outside of a store," she said. "We're a growing town. They do a good job of meeting and anticipating the needs of our town."
Downtown parking will become even more important in the coming years as more businesses move to Davidson, said Blackwell.
For instance, since Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse opened in the downtown, merchants said they've noticed an increase in traffic.
While having more people walking around the downtown is generally good for all businesses, said Blackwell, it can also be off-putting for potential customers looking for parking.
Reconciling increased traffic and limited parking options will be the key to downtown Davidson's success, said Blackwell.
"You always want to make sure customers can find parking - especially in a tough economy like this one," she said.