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By 2018, the Dallas Arboretum will need to secure more parking than what the new Garland Road garage will accommodate. That’s one of the findings in the city’s long-lost study that examined parking at the Arboretum.

Neighborhood activist Hal Barker received a copy of the study through an open records request. You can read the entire thing here or by clicking on the image to the left.

There are lots of interesting tidbits in there, which we’ll break down a little more later. But first, there’s attendance growth.

The Arboretum expects its visitorship to double by the end of 2014 and steadily rise over the next several years, according to the study, which is based on data and interviews the Arboretum provided. The Garland Road garage should suffice for all but eight days a year, until 2018 when peak parking demand exceeds supply.

The Arboretum expects its attendance to double by the end of 2014 and steadily rise over the next several years.

The Arboretum is planning for this. Board president Mary Brinegar provided a statement via email but did not offer any specifics about whether we’ll be looking at more parking garages or surface lots along Garland Road, or anywhere else nearby.

“Parking plans are still in a formative phase with many options under consideration. We will be assessing the traffic patterns to each part of the garden once the parking garage is built and then determine where the greatest needs for additional parking exist, what the price is for each, and what we can afford.”

However, we can draw some conclusions from earlier reports. In May 2012, after the Winfrey Point controversy, the Arboretum was said to be eying several businesses along Garland Road to help solve its parking woes. John Armstrong, the Arboretum’s vice president of property development, recently said that any negotiations they’ve had with nearby land owners have been nothing but friendly.

Is the lake safe?

Winfrey Point is off the table, says District 9 park board member Gerry Worall, and it’s unlikely the Arboretum would consider natural areas around White Rock Lake.

“It’s beyond the realm of reasonable discussion.” —Gerry Worrall on Winfrey Point as parking overflow

“There’s just no political will to do that,” he says. “It’s beyond the realm of reasonable discussion.”

Worall says there was a time, about seven or eight years ago, when everyone parked on the grass at the lake.

“The whole east side of the lake was covered in cars. There was an effort to restrict that and make it more of a natural setting.”

Does the Desman study really matter?

Plans for this latest parking study originated in April 2012 (ahead of the Winfrey Point controversy), in anticipation of the new Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, which finally opened last weekend to much fanfare, even receiving some national attention.

The city hired Desman Associates to conduct a parking study that would determine whether a garage on Garland Road would meet the Arboretum’s need — but that was under the premise that city revenue bonds would fund the garage.

When the estimated cost of the garage became too high (more than $20 million), the Arboretum “saw the writing on the wall,” said Barbara Kindig, assistant director of the parks department, and opted to privately fund the project.

As a result, $80,000 worth of taxpayer funds paid for a study deemed irrelevant to the Arboretum’s plan, as far as the city was concerned.

Worrall says the study was necessary at the time because the city had never attempted a project like this in which the cost would be re-paid by revenue generated from parking fees. The study showed that more proven data was needed.

He says it’s possible that the report could be looked at again years down the road if the city wants to reconsider using revenue bonds.

As for long-term parking plans, Worrall says it’s unlikely the Arboretum will incorporate more public transportation or shuttle services like the one at Gaston and Garland. It provides an extra 600-700 spaces, but the contract with Lincoln Property Co. is up in June as the shopping center begins redeveloping. And, it’s more economical for the Arboretum to secure its own space for parking.

“They operate at a loss for the shuttle service, and it’s less convenient for visitors.”

The new Garland Road parking garage is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014. The City Council is expected to approve the permit for the underground walkway on Wednesday.

Desman Study Final (Text)

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