GATEWAY CENTER: On-street parking remains top concern

It’s still unclear how many on-street parking spaces will be available along East College Street near downtown Oberlin as the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center project moves forward.

The issue was raised by both the Oberlin planning commission and city council in the past week.

“We wanted to get a better understanding on how things are coming along and how we got to where we are today,” planning commission chair Matt Adelman said, explaining why a special work session was called last Thursday.

The final site plan for the center was approved July 2 with 46 conditions.

It includes zero on-street parking spaces along East College Street — only a drop-off area and the rest of the stretch striped off.

City officials and Oberlin College reps were directed by the planning commission in July to meet and find a solution to the problem of restricted on-street parking.

Adelman said the spaces on that street are critical to the retail stores to be opened on the first floor of the Gateway Center.

He said the city must avoid the same type of parking issues that have risen in front of the Sustainable Community Associates building at the corner of East College and Pleasant streets.

“If we would have known those spaces were going to go away then it probably wouldn’t have been approved,” he said. “I think compromises were made for the progress of development.”

There were either 18 or 19 diagonal parking spaces — officials could not agree which — along East College Street before construction began on the new hotel.

They were removed because the international fire code does not allow diagonal spaces due to the size of the Gateway Center.

Planning director Carrie Handy said city officials and college reps agree that as much parking as possible should be available in that area.

They are looking at seven parallel spaces along East College Street in front of the Gateway Center and eight more on the same street between Willard Court and Pleasant Street.

Fire chief Bob Hanmer said the new hotel is four stories and more than 30 feet tall. Due to its size he has to address fire access to the building.

The international fire code requires access roads to have an unobstructed width of no less than 20 feet and an unobstructed vertical clearance of a minimum of 13 feet 6 inches.

Hanmer said diagonal parking is considered to be an obstruction. In the event of a fire, rescue trucks would not be able to pull close enough to the building if cars were parked there and his men would have to move hoses between cars.

Parallel spaces allow firefighters to have direct access to the building.

“We want to get in as fast as we can with as few obstructions as possible,” Hanmer said.

City officials have recommended a 40-foot fire lane with no parking along East College Street in front of the Gateway Center near Rt. 58. They also want seven parallel spaces in the remaining area.

“If that building catches on fire we’re going to need more than one truck,” Hanmer said.

Oberlin College spokeswoman Tita Reed said she understands the need to follow the fire code but supports the merchants who want on-street parking.

“We’d like to see that restored,” she said. “We’re trying to work on a compromise, which is a nice step.”

Reed said she likes the idea of eight additional parallel spaces between Willard Court and Pleasant Street for the businesses across the street and for the new hotel.

City manager Eric Norenberg said officials want to use a large space east of Willard Court for approximately 20 more parking spots.

The lot had originally been planned as the home of Lorain National Bank, which instead moved to South Main Street and now operates under the Northwest bank banner.

Handy is still waiting on a revised site plan from Smart Hotels that addresses the 46 conditions originally put forth by the city.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.