Turning land into parking lots is not uncommon, but turning a parking lot into a potential city resource is rare.
That’s what city officials may do with an old eyesore of a parking lot across from the city shuffle board court on Ninth Street West and 15th Avenue West in Ballard Park. As the city launches an effort to improve its parking lots, that particular lot may be destined for removal in favor of a retention pond.
“We’re looking at all of them to see which ones need to be repaved and right now that one doesn’t look good,” said Economic Development Director Carl Callahan. “It’s in an area we are trying to clean up, so we need to either make it presentable or find another option.”
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Public Works Director Jim McLellan supports turning the lot into a retention pond.
“From a stormwater standpoint, everything rushes to Ware’s Creek at the same time,” McLellan said. “If we can even delay that water for a little bit, it will mitigate that rush of water.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $53.7 million on a Ware’s Creek flood mitigation project, but the project, completed in April 2016, was never designed to stop the creek from flooding after a heavy storm drops several inches of rain in a short amount of time. Two months later the creek was tested with minor rainfalls from Tropical Storm Colin and the Corps boasted its success.
Just three months later, in September of 2016, Hurricane Hermine’s outer bands dumped several inches of rain and the normally tame Ware’s Creek turned into a raging river that climbed 150 feet uphill from its banks to flood several homes. McLellan hopes a new retention pond could at least reduce flooding during typical heavy summer storms, but flooding will likely remain an issue during the arrival of tropical systems.
The parking lot is a nuisance right now and attracts undesirables.
Vice Mayor Patrick Roff
The unknown bothers Councilman Bemis Smith, who said he would like more data on whether a retention pond would make a difference.
“If it would, I’m more than happy to do that,” he said. “But I would hate it to not have an impact and we’ve turned it into a retention facility in perpetuity. And I’m not sure we’ve done anything if all we do is go from 5 inches of flooding from 6 inches of flooding.”
Officials are mixed on the proposal, preferring to either redo the lot or surplus it and sell it for redevelopment, but all expressed support if it would actually reduce flooding.
“Sometimes you have to eat steak one bite at a time,” said Councilman Gene Brown. “If you look at what’s happening, right now it’s blighted and not kept up right, but I would like to hear more about the pond. Maybe we can’t do 50 at once, but we have to start somewhere and I think this is a great opportunity where you have government looking at ways to improve a situation.”
Vice Mayor Patrick Roff said any use other than a parking lot would be better than what it is now.
“The parking lot is a nuisance right now and attracts undesirables,” he said.