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Cleveland: New Convention Center, no new parking

6:32 PM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Will a lack of connected parking be an issue for those trying to market Cleveland's new Medical Mart and Convention Center?

The facility's planners and operators don't think so but some in the convention and meeting planning business are expressing concern.

"Building new parking was never part of the original plan," said lawyer Jeff Appelbaum, who is overseeing the project for Cuyahoga County.

That's because a study indicated that nearby city, county and private parking garages and lots would have more than enough space to handle the demand.

And it assumed most convention-goers would be staying at downtown hotels and arrive at the center by cab, RTA or shuttle transportation.

But some variables have changed since the study.

Demolition of the old Convention Center removed spaces. So did demolition of a parking garage for the Medical Mart.

And parking demand closer to the new casino is putting some pressure on space and prices nearer Public Square.

A new convention center in Raleigh has 1,700 attached spaces.

Convention centers in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Detroit have attached parking. Those in Indianapolis and Cincinnati do not.

"It's not necessary for a convention center to have its own parking facility," said Steven Hacker, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events in Dallas.

"Convenient" is the key word, he said.

But it could pose problems for some convention attendees.

Hacker said, "If you are driving in from Dayton and have a backseat loaded with samples, you are going to have to schlep into the Convention Center and if it's raining or sleeting, you're not going to be too happy."

And parking could be a factor as some meeting planners choose event sites.

"The competiton for these buildings is fierce," Hacker said.

Appelbaum said Medical Mart operator MMPI is holding meetings with those in the parking industry to tailor specific transportation strategies for specific events.

Appelbaum believes a lack of parking could be easily remedied.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants to relocate county government out of its present home at Ontario and Lakeside.

That could free up a potential parking site, as well as spaces in the county's Lakeside Huntington garage.

Appelbaum said, "Parking is something that can be easily accomplished...It's not a problem that was not anticipated or one that is not being addressed."

More projects, more visitors and more activity downtown may mean cheap parking is something that's no longer taken for granted or as plentiful.

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