By LOU WILIN
Doris Schumacher felt like the rug was pulled out from under her when reverse-angle parking and lane reductions were yanked from Findlay’s Main Street plan this week.
“I was absolutely shocked this morning when I found out they went so opposite what they had been promoting. I was just blown away by it,” said the owner of DorAnne’s Gifts & Gourmet, 327 S. Main St.
“I honestly don’t know why the major reversal when the downtown businesses were on board,” she said.
“We need parking, and we need things done differently down here and this was an opportunity to change the face of downtown. It’s not happening now.”
Across the street, Jayne Allen, co-owner of Coffee Amici, 328 S. Main St., said she, too, was very disappointed.
Reverse-angle parking would have added parking spaces on Main Street, thereby eliminating downtown’s biggest downside, she said.
Downtown business owners were roundly backing the plan, she and Schumacher said. It appears, however, that those who complained loudest got their way, Allen said.
“What other people, who are complaining about the project, don’t realize is that we as business owners that have chosen to be downtown, this is what pays our mortgage,” Allen said. “We need to find ways to entice people to come downtown. We need ways to slow the traffic down. To us, this seemed like the perfect plan. And being that Marathon was going to contribute (money), (the state) was going to contribute (money). It wasn’t coming out of taxpayers’ pockets … I think the public is misinformed.”
One downtown business owner was so angry Tuesday, he declined to comment.
But a couple of downtown business owners expressed mixed feelings Tuesday about the original plan. They said lane reductions could have bottlenecked traffic and obstructed emergency vehicles.
Others who backed the original plan were still hopeful that the changes city and economic development officials ultimately make will help downtown’s future.
“It’s kind of unfortunate … but as long as they do it right, I think it will benefit all of the businesses here, restaurants especially,” said Colin Logan, kitchen manager for Logan’s Irish Pub, 414 S. Main St. “We’re not set in any one particular way. We have faith that they know what they are talking about.”
He shared critics’ concerns that having one lane each north and south through parts of downtown could bottleneck traffic.
Still, Logan said downtown needs more parking. It is a concern for his restaurant on weekends.
“When the Bistro is busy, when Japan West is busy and when we’re busy, it limits parking. People have to walk farther. We have seen slower periods,” Logan said. “We do have people come in from out of town and ask where they are supposed to park.”
The Wine Merchant, at the corner of Hardin and Main streets, already has ample parking with a public parking lot nearby. But owner Dan Matheny publicly spoke for the original Main Street plan because he favors slowing traffic to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly. He is hopeful the revised plan will do that with medians between northbound and southbound traffic. Curb-lined extensions of sidewalks or extensions of tree-adorned gathering areas, called bump-outs, would shorten pedestrian crossings.
“Sure, I would love to see more parking downtown, like everybody else. But if the community is such that this is not what they really want in terms of single-lane traffic — and I think they have spoken — so be it,” Matheny said. “But that doesn’t stop the downtown from putting in a more pedestrian-friendly area and doing some bump-outs and doing some limited tree lines in the center of Main …
“Ultimately I think that traffic does have to be slowed down,” Matheny said. “There has to be a different atmosphere downtown for allowing more people to feel more comfortable, move more freely and be able to go from point A to point B without 40-45 mph traffic running red lights and coming down fast.”
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