One thing is clear to Reggie Frederick: People love Proctor.
In the 32 years that he has lived and worked in the neighborhood, he said he has watched more and more people flock there to shop, eat and enjoy staples such as the weekly Proctor Farmers Market.
“Proctor is a thriving district,” said Frederick, owner of the local bowling alley Chalet Bowl and vice president of the Proctor District Association. “There are a lot more people coming in, more traffic.”
That means more people looking for somewhere to park, which has businesses and residents worried. Brian Spindor, a North End Neighborhood Council board member and Proctor resident, said parking within Proctor fills up rapidly during peak hours and overflows into the surrounding residential areas.
“People who want to shop in Proctor will spend more and more time searching for a parking space, and the longer they search it becomes more likely they will finally just give up and go somewhere else,” Spindor said. “It gives them a bad experience, or a bad image of Proctor.”
Such concerns led the Proctor District Association to recently request a parking study. It wrapped up last month.
Tacoma Parking Services Manager Eric Huseby said results of the study will be released in mid-July at the earliest.
During the course of the two-week study, Huseby said all the parking spaces in the area were inventoried by type. Parking services employees also drove through Proctor every hour, on the hour, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday to count the spaces that were occupied. Ideally, 15 percent of the parking spots should be empty, he said.
In areas where parking is constrained, Huseby said it’s not only an issue of convenience, but one of safety. When parking is hard to come by, he said drivers are more prone to make unsafe decisions, such as parking too close to stop signs or crosswalks.
Huseby said once they have the results of the study, he plans to meet with the Proctor District Association to discuss the city’s recommendations. It will then be up to the district association to decide what changes it can support.
“There’s always kind of a fear from business owners that the city will come and put parking meters down tomorrow,” Huseby said. “We can’t go into an area without support. The parking program just doesn’t work if we have businesses that are upset.”
Huseby said one tool the district could possibly employ to improve parking is making timed parking spaces more consistent across the district. Rather than a hodgepodge of 60-minute, 90-minute and two-hour parking spaces, increased consistency could help eliminate what Huseby called “ticket traps.”
Spindor said he worries the parking problem in Proctor will only get worse.
The Proctor Safeway flirted with charging for parking in its overflow lot to combat the influx of noncustomer parking last year. It ultimately backed away from paid parking, instead opting for more vigorous monitoring of its lot.
Since then, construction has finished on the six-story multiuse Proctor Station, which contains about 150 apartments on upper levels and retail space on its lower level. Residents of Proctor Station get a parking space, but are charged $85 a month to use it. Spindor said this seems to drive residents onto the street, where they can park for free.
Now a second Proctor Stationlike mixed-use site is planned for the area. Spindor worries the developments will continue to congest the district and detract from the character of Proctor.
“They want developers to come and build up big buildings and increase (the city’s) tax base, and they say, ‘Well, we’ll deal with the traffic issues and the density issues at a later date,’ ” Spindor said.
Frederick said the district is ever-evolving, and residents must evolve alongside it.
“It’s nice that (Proctor Station) is in. It might be three to five years ahead of its time, and some people are having a tough time dealing with that — a lot of people want to keep the status quo,” Frederick said. “But as a business, if my customers can’t find a place to park, I’m going to lose guests.”