In Canton, parking woes part of growing pains
City leaders charting new path to boost parking in booming neighborhood
Cars are parked at an angle along Hudson Street in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood. (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor / January 31, 2013)
But where to park?
"I don't know of any small part of Canton where there isn't a parking problem," said Darryl Jurkiewicz, president of the Canton Community Association. His organization has been pushing city officials for months to find solutions.
The Boston Street corridor in Southeast Baltimore has become the latest ground zero for a familiar battle. A long-established neighborhood — Federal Hill, Fells Point and, now, Canton — catches fire with new residents and businesses. New customers, tenants and homeowners soon overwhelm the space — and there's none left for parking.
"In all the best neighborhoods in the world, there's a shortage of parking," said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, who researches parking issues. "Too much parking can ruin a neighborhood."
But inadequate parking, especially in a neighborhood with few public transit options, can also spell its demise. City officials and business leaders fear shoppers may become discouraged from visiting Canton and residents may get fed up with finding a needle-in-the-haystack curbside spot each night. It's a problem they don't want to see replicated as they seek to increase the city's population.
It's a issue that worries C. William Struever, the developer and property manager of the Can Co. complex on Boston Street, where a long-vacant building has been transformed into a retail and office complex.
"It's increasingly dense, which is a good thing," Struever said of the Canton area. "It's more jobs, it's a bigger tax base, more people in the city. Thank God, after 40 years, it's turning around.
"But we need to have a better way of thinking about this issue."
City officials are trying a range of approaches to address parking in Canton, including expanding what is known as "reverse angle parking" along streets wide enough to accommodate it and championing alternatives for car owners, such as car sharing and bicycling, according to a spokeswoman for the Parking Authority.
The city also is "exploring possibilities" for building new public garages while "encouraging the development of private parking garages and lots in Canton," authority spokeswoman Tiffany James said in an email.
City Councilman James B. Kraft has hosted meetings with residents and recently led a council vote to do away with a controversial residential permit parking zone in one area of Canton in favor of what Kraft called a more "holistic" approach.
"What we can try to do is minimize the impact, and that's what we're trying to do," Kraft said.
The new efforts confront neighborhood characteristics that define Canton's success but also shape its parking troubles.
One of the biggest challenges is the changing demographic of the neighborhood, which spreads from the Inner Harbor north to Patterson Park. As in many popular urban areas, James said, the population in Canton has grown younger in recent years, and more young professionals are living together in the neighborhood's renovated rowhouses as roommates.
"Years ago, Canton's narrow rowhouses held one family that owned one or no vehicles," James said. "Now, oftentimes several adults live in one home, each with their own vehicle. There is now two or three or sometimes four times the number of vehicles per residence than when the neighborhood was first created."
Kraft called the problem "almost insurmountable."
In Canton, many homes are between 11 and 14 feet wide, making the parking space in front of each home less than the length of a typical car, he said. There are also many homes on alleys in Canton with no on-street space.
The math just doesn't add up, Kraft said: "There are just simply too many cars."