Featured photo: Parking lots in downtown Greensboro highlighted by Parking Reform Network (screenshot)

Thirty-two percent of downtown Greensboro is taken up by parking lots. That’s according to data collected by the Parking Reform Network, a nonprofit organization that looks into the impact of parking policy.

Thirty-two percent. That’s almost a third of the entire downtown area. When you look at the map, it’s actually absurd. Charlotte, NC’s largest city dedicates just 18 percent of its central area to parking. Raleigh only uses 28 percent.

And yet, some Greensboro actors want more parking lots built there.

Much has been reported about Lidl’s recent pull-out from a contract that would have built a much-needed grocery store in the Warnersville neighborhood at the edge of downtown. 

The original plan was for the grocery-chain to have a location at 734 S. Elm St., which sits at the corner of East Gate City Boulevard squarely in the center of a food desert with the nearest grocery store — Deep Roots — more than a mile away.

But due to environmental contamination at the site, Lidl pulled out from the contract, which was supposed to be finalized by the end of November. Now, reports by local outlets have stated that the clean-up to the site could take 18 months to three years. Given that new timeline, reports note that Lidl is still interested in developing a store at the location, but other conflicting desires by local developer Andy Zimmerman may railroad those plans.

As reported by Yes! Weekly on Aug. 16, Zimmerman, who is the chair-elect for Downtown Greensboro, Inc., has expressed interest in buying the lot for $1.4 million to turn it into “apartments, mixed-use retail and parking,” according to emails analyzed by the outlet.

Zimmerman also stated in emails that he is willing to “partner with Lidl (or any other grocer) for a small format grocery store” in that location.

But residents of the immediate area, as well as several city council members, are opposed to Zimmerman’s idea. Many say that what the long-time food desert needs is a full-fledged grocery store that offers easy, affordable access to healthy food.

You know what else we need? Affordable housing. Affordable public transportation.

What we definitely don’t need are more giant, empty parking lots that no one can park in for fear of being towed or fined ridiculous amounts of money. What’s going on with the giant lot next to Cheesecakes by Alex that’s been closed for more than a year?

Did you know that on weekends, the parking lot behind SouthEnd Brewing, which is huge by the way, costs $10 to park for 10 hours? Dozens of reviews on Google show how the parking company, ParkMe Inc., has invoiced drivers after they went over their time with $85 fines.

There’s only two real public parking lots that are free for downtown goers during the day: the one that butts up against McCoul’s Public House and the small one further up Elm Street at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Any remaining free parking in downtown is parallel parking if you’re lucky.

So it’s not that we need more parking, it’s that we need it to be more accessible, just like the residents of East Greensboro need a grocery store.

Thirty-two percent is more than enough.

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