Beaufort City Council looking into parking garage offer in downtown district

Beaufort City Council is learning more on building parking garages downtown, after years of complaints over lack of spaces for merchants and patrons.

A private developer has offered the City 135 spots in a garage the developer is planning. Council is exploring the possibility and has hired a consultant to study the possibility of the City building its own, according to Mayor Billy Keyserling.

Store manager Stefani Lea is supportive of a garage. Ticket after ticket, she’s experienced the frustration of finding and feeding the Bay Street meter spots; she says walking blocks away to and from her shop is not ideal, either.

“I got two tickets yesterday…and then, the day before I got the same exact two tickets, so I guess I haven’t learned my lesson,” Lea says.

Lea manages Barefoot Bubba’s on Bay Street.

“Customers, I have a lot of firsthand experience with that, because they come in all the time and ask for change,” Lea says.

Over the last few years, a parking task force conducted surveys and studies to determine fixes for the problems. The City purchased a lot at 500 Carteret Street, adding more than 100 more spots. Lea says they’re usually vacant, since they sit several blocks from Bay Street and the park and marina. She hopes a garage could be closer.

“It would really help a lot with customer, and also all the employees that work downtown. The only thing is that, the garage shouldn’t be too far away, because a lot of us stores don’t close until after dark. Walking far distances in the dark is not always a good thing,” she says.

Keyserling says funding garage spaces is contingent upon the penny sales tax.

“Building a parking garage is, A- complicated, because it has to fit into the National Historic Landmark District,” he says, “and secondly, it is it is cost-prohibitive, when you’re talking 15 to $20,000 a space.”

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