Parking becomes prime real estate in Old Town Clovis

clovis-roundup-Old Town parking problems 1 (front page)Local business owners in Old Town Clovis guarded their parking lots this holiday season as the city began a construction project in early December that took away from the already limited parking in the area.

Shawn Miller, the Business Development Manager for the City of Clovis, said the city was dealing with a time restraint that forced them to act quickly on the development plan.

“We have to do something with the area since redevelopment agencies in California can no longer own property,” Miller said. “We came up with a plan to develop a plaza that will have a big centennial tree since we just celebrated our centennial year, and we’re calling it the Centennial Plaza.”

The plaza will have two multi-story buildings that will house retail stores, restaurants and office buildings. Miller said nice landscape, decorative lighting and dedicated parking space will be added to the new area so special events can be scheduled.

Miller said local businesses were informed about the project plans and construction timeline.

“It’s always been very clear that construction was going to start after the Christmas parade,” Miller said. “I personally went to each business to drop off plans showing the schedule, and at no point did we ever say it was going to start after Christmas.”

Miller said the timing of the construction would be inconvenient for customers and business owners no matter what time of year it was.

“There’s no good time in Old Town Clovis to do any kind of construction project ever and that’s a fact,” Miller said.

The city held a series of meetings with the various business owners for the past nine months and Miller said the only feedback they received was from the owner of A Secret Garden to have the Bullard and Pollasky phase of construction done in time for Valentine’s Day.

Once the first phase of development is complete, construction will move to Clovis and Bullard avenues to rebuild a stub that comes in by Sandy’s Country Junction and add more parking.

The alley behind Sandy’s Country Junction that runs north to the 500 Club Casino will also be rebuilt. Completion of the project is expected to be the first week of April, just in time for Big Hat Days.

Miller said he communicates with the business owners frequently and knows that this project will only help their businesses in the long run.

“I talk to the merchants often, I hear complaints from them and I hear ideas from them,” Miller said. “They know when this project is done, they’ll have a very good product that will help not only the new businesses that move in to the new buildings, but also the surrounding businesses as well.”

Justin Glenn, operations manager at the House of Juju, said his customers have been affected by the parking situation.

“Some people have mentioned how hard it is to find a parking spot or they call in with a group and say they’ll be here in 10 minutes, but they come in 20 minutes later because they had to find a place to park,” Glenn said. “Because we’re a fast-paced and small restaurant, we don’t hear a lot of chit chat, but we usually hear the comments at the tables about the parking.”

Kati Wiebe, a barista at Kuppa Joy Coffee House, said their customers have also expressed concerns over parking. The former DMV’s parking lot had become a place where many became accustomed to parking, but now that it’s become the site for Centennial Plaza, drivers are having to search for parking elsewhere.

“That lot wasn’t supposed to be a parking lot, but it just kind of ended up being one for all the surrounding businesses,” Wiebe said. “And now that we’ve gotten accustomed to using it as a parking lot, they’ve decided to come in and build something, so it’s just been really inconvenient for customers.”

Miller said business owners that are dealing with parking issues should instruct their employees to park further away.

“If all of the merchants and their employees wouldn’t take up the spots that are directly in front of their store or their neighbor’s stores and leave that prime parking for their customers, you would not have a parking issue and that’s just a fact,” Miller said. “We’ve done studies and there’s plenty of parking to accommodate all of the businesses that are in Old Town.”

Wiebe said her biggest concern for employees with the parking problem has been walking to their cars after the end of their shifts.

“I’ve gotten used to parking farther away,” Wiebe said. “It’s not awful, but it’s a little bit more of a concern at night because a lot of times it’s just girls on the closing shift and we have to walk to one girl’s car together and she’ll drop the rest of us off at our cars because we don’t want to walk to our cars alone at night.”

Miller, who navigates through the Old Town Clovis area several times a day, said people who come to the area often know where to find parking and how to get to their favorite stores.

“Clovis is not unique as far as parking goes because any kind of old town or old downtown in other cities has the same exact issues that we deal with in Clovis,” Miller said. “Parking isn’t as much of an issue as the merchants say it is, and if you were to ask customers what are the worst five things about Old Town Clovis, parking is generally not one of the top five.”

Glenn offered a few pieces of advice for customers looking for parking during the holidays.

“When you find a spot, take it and don’t work so hard to park close,” Glenn said. “If you want to go somewhere, just park and walk a little bit because Old Town is beautiful this time of year.”