Theater Remodel Causing Parking Pain

Construction on Victoria Hall Worries Business Owners

As part of the construction surrounding the Ensemble Theatre Company’s renovation of Victoria Hall, 20 spots in the Victoria parking lot (also known as City Parking Lot #5) are scheduled to be closed for up to a year. The loss of convenient parking spaces is a source of concern for business owners on the block surrounding the lot as they look forward to the Christmas season.

Bob Ficarra, owner of Metro Entertainment at 6 West Anapamu Street, submitted a press release expressing his apprehensions regarding the parking loss. In the letter, Ficarra claims the closure will negatively impact his business and those of his neighbors. “[Closing off the parking spots] could directly result in up to 15 people losing their jobs and businesses,” wrote Ficarra. “Already there have been multiple layoffs in expectation of lost business for possibly an entire year.” Ficarra reportedly laid off one of his own employees directly in anticipation of the hit his business will take.

Jan Koch, president of The Travel Store of Santa Barbara at 12 West Anapamu Street, shares his neighbor’s concerns. “I think the main issue here is accessibility,” said Koch. “If it’s not convenient for people to come downtown, and if they are risking a parking ticket, then people are even more likely to go online.”

Neither business owner can ignore the block’s history with construction. Both point to the prolonged construction at Maggie’s Restaurant (formerly State & A’s) and the crosswalk replacement project at Anapamu and Chapala streets as recent sources of declined sales. They claim that sidewalk closures, jack hammering, and dust clouds all served to discourage customers from patronizing their establishments. For Ficarra and Koch, this is evidence enough to be wary of closing parking spots near their stores for up to a year.

The most practical solution proposed by Ficarra and his neighbors is turning the curb on their side of Anapamu into a temporary parking zone, either yellow for loading and unloading, or green as 15-minute parking spaces. However, both the Downtown Parking Association and the Transportation and Circulation Committee denied the request.

Transportation Manager Browning Allen assured that other accommodations are being made in light of the loss of parking. “The monthly permit holders have been asked to park in other City parking lots, which some of them have started to do,” said Allen in a written statement. “We will also add approximately four parking space on Chapala and make other operational changes as needed.”

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