If you drive into the heart of East Passyunk, Center City, Fairmount or any other business district in the city of Philadelphia, you might notice that you’d be hard pressed to find street parking that doesn’t have a two- or three-hour time limit on it. In many cases, you also have to pay. This is the norm for these corridors, but there’s one notable exception. In Fishtown, you could leave your car, come back in a year, and not wind up with a parking ticket, which is how Fishtown District executive director Marc Collazzo put it.
“We’re the only commercial corridor that has 100 percent free parking forever,” Collazzo said.
According to Collazzo, the Fishtown District has been in talks with business owners about implementing parking regulations on Frankford and East Girard avenues.
“When I first opened it wasn’t an issue,” said Bianca DePietro, who opened her women’s clothing store, Toile, seven years ago at 1333 Frankford Ave. “But now sometimes it takes half an hour to find a parking spot.”
DePietro acknowledged that the free and unlimited parking makes it easier for her to park near her store and not have to move throughout the day, but it makes it difficult for her customers who come in to shop or have dress fittings.
“Right now people just park there all day,” she said. “It would be nice if [my customers could] just pull right up and walk in for their fitting.”
The consensus among business owners in the corridor, according to Collazzo, is that both paid parking and time limits on parking would be beneficial, but nothing is yet set in stone.
“We’ll make sure there’s sufficient engagement with the community before the implementation of any regulations,” Collazzo said.
The regulations on Frankford Avenue would go from the Delaware River to Palmer Street. The regulations on East Girard Avenue would go from I-95 to Front Street.
At a recent Fishtown District meeting, the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s deputy executive director, Corinne O’Connor, said that her organization would be conducting a survey to study the parking habits of Fishtowners in April. Upon the completion of the survey, which should take two weeks, O’Connor said that business owners in the district will need to put together a petition that shows that 60 percent of them agree to certain parking regulations on the corridor. After that, a letter of approval from the district city councilmember (Darrell Clarke, in this case) must be obtained by the PPA to install the regulations. Once the regulations are installed, an eight-month pilot begins. Upon completion of the pilot, the regulations will remain permanent so long as the community stakeholders are still on board.
Collazzo said the goal of the parking regulations is to “ensure continued turnover for our businesses” but also to ease parking congestion on residential streets since patrons will no longer have to keep parking there to visit the corridor’s businesses.
The Fishtown Neighbors Association is awaiting the survey’s results before speaking to a potential solution to the problem, according to the organization’s president, Jon Geeting.
“We haven’t discussed that as a board yet, but I’m happy to see that they’re going to be studying [for a] corridor-wide solution here,” said Geeting. “I don’t think anybody’s happy with the current parking situation anywhere [in Fishtown].”
The neighborhood’s biggest concern, according to Geeting, is preserving overnight parking.
“We don’t want to see them do anything that makes overnight parking worse,” he said.
O’Connor said that the PPA doesn’t usually offer solutions to neighborhood parking problems; typically, it’ll defer to the neighborhood on what parking regulations it would like to see implemented.
“Most business corridors have two [-hour limits on parking], but if you feel like three … that’s for you to decide,” O’Connor said at the Fishtown District meeting. “It’s really what you want.”
She said the PPA was planning on doing the study sooner but didn’t think doing the study during a pandemic would yield viable data. Of course, the pandemic will almost certainly still be active in April, but O’Connor signaled that because restrictions on restaurants and stores will likely be more eased than they are now, the data should be at least more reliable than before.
In particular, O’Connor called the constant double parking along East Girard “ridiculous.”
Geeting echoed O’Connor’s sentiment in a phone call with the Star last week.
“Our safety committee routinely hears complaints about people double parking, trucks parking in crosswalks,” Geeting said. “People still double park even when there’s a space open. There’s clearly a need to get that under control. It’s totally a Wild West situation now.”
DePietro said that she had qualms about inviting the PPA to install parking regulations in her business’s neighborhood (“I cannot stand the PPA,” she said), but ultimately it would be for the best.
“There are cars parked in front of my store for days on end,” she said. “I think we’d benefit from higher turnover. People could come shop then go to dinner.”