A proposed 300-seat theater addition to Oberlin College’s Hall Auditorium, 67 North Main St., will increase parking demand.
But a study paid for by the college says existing spaces can handle it.
“The college and the city want to ensure that this new performance venue will not cause local parking to be overburdened and there will not be negative impacts for access to local businesses,” Phillip Baron and David Lieb of Walker Parking Consultants wrote in the study. “The college is committed to working with the community to ensure that adequate parking is available for the new performing arts center while also preserving the pedestrian-friendly, walkable campus design.”
The Michigan company based its conclusions on college enrollment remaining at about 2,900 students. It determined 95 spaces would be needed for evening theater performances.
It concluded additional parking isn’t needed as long as performances don’t occur at the same time as performances in the auditorium. “An overlap in programming could generate a combined need for parking spaces that could overtax the existing capacity,” the study said.
The study also found that when spaces in front of some businesses or campus areas are filled during busy times, there are substantial empty spaces a block or two away. “These localized challenges form perceptions that parking is inadequate,” the study said.
Construction of the two-floor theater is scheduled to begin in June and be completed about a year later, college architect Steven Varelmann told planning commission members Dec. 7.
The meeting was to discuss a preliminary site plan. The commission would need to approve a full site plan for the project to commence.
The 500-seat auditorium, which opened in 1953, lacks a lobby and its bathrooms aren’t handicap- accessible, Varelmann said. He said the “adaptable theater” and performance space addition is to provide more modern facilities and additional room for Oberlin College’s theater department.
The addition would include dressing rooms, a lobby, and showers. “Its really a classroom so that the theater department is able to teach acting in a different classroom environment,” Varelmann said.
The project calls for removing 12 parking spaces in the adjacent Hotel at Oberlin’s parking lot to make room for a drop-off area for the theater. Twelve spaces would be provided in a new parking area east of the addition by Willard Court.
The hotel and the still-under-construction Gateway conference center have a combined 153 spaces, the study said. There are 75 public spaces on North Main Street in front of the center and hotel.
The study was done in April and May. It analyzed the area bound by Union Street and Goldsmith Lane to the north, Forest, Morgan and Locust streets to the south, Cedar Street to the west, and Pleasant Street to the east.
There are 2,523 parking spaces in the area with 1,350 (53 percent) owned by the college, the study said. Of the remainder, 653 (26 percent) are privately owned and 520 (21 percent) are public.
Commission chairman Matt Adelman said he hasn’t had time to read the 52-page study but was skeptical of its conclusion that the theater won’t create a parking shortage. Adelman, co-owner of The Feve, a restaurant that draws many cars downtown, said parking can be scarce during peak hours.
Adelman noted that when the city wanted to eliminate parking spaces on East College Street by the hotel for a fire lane, the college sued it. An April settlement allowed for up to 14 parking spaces by the hotel with the fire lane moved from East College to North Main.
The hotel, which opened in May, is using about half the spaces. The rest are designated as a drop-off/pick-up area.
Adelman said there were no guarantees that events might not occur at the auditorium, theater, hotel, or center simultaneously, making parking nearby impossible.
He noted there is little public transportation in the area and most people don’t want to walk more than a short distance from where they park.
“I just don’t think there’s adequate parking for people if you need 95 more spaces,” Adelman said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune Hall Auditorium, 67 North Main St., could get a 300-seat, “adaptable theater” on the south side to serve Oberlin College’s theater department.