Sick of circling and circling Old Town Bluffton with your head on a swivel in search of an elusive parking space?
Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, you won’t have to make so many laps before finding a spot — Bluffton town leaders gathered Tuesday for a special workshop that focused on a series of projects aimed at easing Old Town Bluffton’s parking woes.
Making it easier for visitors and residents to shop, dine and live in the historic district is a “very high priority,” Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said.
The town is on the verge of beginning a long-planned May River Road streetscape improvement project that will add roughly 30 new spaces.
Town manager Marc Orlando said construction on that project, which also will include the installation of new lighting and landscaping, is expected to begin in January.
North of May River Road on Boundary Street sits a roughly 1.5-acre plot of land that was purchased by the town earlier this year for the purpose of adding more public parking.
The land, which cost the town about $1 million, could accommodate up to about 65 new spots. There is also space on the parcel to build a small park.
“You could add benches or playgrounds” and other recreation features to the open space, Bluffton’s director of engineering Bryan McIlwee said.
Orlando noted that plans for the Boundary Street property are only in the conceptual phase and there is no funding in this fiscal year’s budget to start adding parking or recreation amenities.
Tuesday’s workshop also included a discussion of plans for improvements and parking additions along Dr. Mellichamp Drive just north of the bustling Promenade.
The town recently entered into a roughly $130,000 contract with Savannah-based Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. to design the streetscape enhancement project.
That could include adding more than 100 new parking spaces along Dr. Mellichamp Drive and nearby side streets, town officials say.
In addition to more parking, the streetscape improvements are expected to include more street lights and sidewalks, Orlando said.
Design and permitting for the project is expected to be complete by May, he said.
Town leaders aren’t only considering adding spaces — there are plans in place to install signage restricting parking along sections of Lawrence, Lawton, Church and Calhoun streets in hopes of encouraging more turnover. Those signs will be installed starting next week.
Town staff plans to bring a proposal to add more parking restrictions along Boundary Street before council for consideration in the coming months, Orlando said.