Parking aplenty in NewBo, but how convenient?

'People around here need to learn to walk a block,' business owner says

The NewBo area is intended to be an urban district where people leave their cars and walk around, said Seth Gunnerson, a planner for Cedar Rapids. The area has a “park once” philosophy, he said. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The NewBo area is intended to be an urban district where people leave their cars and walk around, said Seth Gunnerson, a planner for Cedar Rapids. The area has a “park once” philosophy, he said. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Especially when the NewBo City Market is open, parking spots get snapped up quickly as the New Bohemia District gets busy.

A Friday lunch hour earlier this month was a prime example. The small parking lot in the popular market was full, as were nearby spots along 11th Avenue SE and the district’s main drag, Third Street SE.

“Today I drove around four times to find a spot,” said Cheryl Sellner, 47, of Cedar Rapids. “It gets crazy in here. It doesn’t keep me away, but it is frustrating when you think you are going somewhere and it takes 15 minutes to park.”

Cate Sheller, 57, of Cedar Rapids, said, “I am surprised, considering the popularity of the building, there is not more parking.”

She said she doesn’t favor more space for parking — she prefers to bike when it’s nice — but the solution may be building up, such as a parking ramp.

NewBo has become a regional destination for shopping, dining and just hanging out with a host of options concentrated around the market and the Third Street SE corridor. While some disagree parking is an issue or think the problem is overstated, complaints bubble up on busy days in NewBo, some patrons and staff say.

That intensified when patrons lost a commonly used — although private — empty lot when construction began on the 329 Building, 329 12th Ave. SE.


“This summer, parking will reach a tipping point, in particular in the vicinity of the market and Geonetric,” said City Council member Dale Todd, whose District 3 includes NewBo. “We are pushing the limits.”

Such concerns and the fact more development will make the growing area even more crowded prompted public officials last year to investigate whether one of the city’s top regional draws has enough parking.

Last summer, city staff surveyed parking in the NewBo and Czech Village areas and found there’s an ample supply, even when it gets busy.

There are about 400 on-street parking spaces and 1,000 spaces in city-owned lots, largely Lot 44 along the east bank of the Cedar River as well as in Czech Village. An unquantified number of additional spaces also exist in private business lots for customers, such as at NewBo City Market and behind CSPS Hall.

During the survey, city staff sampled the area 18 times on Thursday afternoons and evenings when Meet Me at the Market occurs during warm months, on Friday evenings, and on Sunday middays and afternoons.

The survey showed parking demand never exceeded 50 percent of capacity, and a spot could regularly be found within a block of the market. The survey did not include special events.

“At times parking gets restricted, like on Thursday and Friday nights, but overall there is parking availability in the district, and enough to allow growth,” said Seth Gunnerson, a planner for Cedar Rapids.

As part of the review, staff mapped the distance between Lion’s Bridge Brewery in Czech Village and the NewBo Market and overlaid it with the Coral Ridge Mall from one end to the other. It was essentially the same distance.

The point was that parking is available within a reasonable distance, if people know where to look.


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That’s one of the problems. Many patrons want to park in front of their destination, and either aren’t aware of or prefer not to use parking farther away.

“More or less we have questions about where they can or can’t park,” said Macy Demeulenaere, a waitress at Parlor City Pub and Eatery, 1125 Third St. SE, across from the market. “There’s confusion.”

It’s most common among older and mobility-challenged customers, she said.

“From our point of view, there’s a lot of parking in the district; (customers) just don’t know where it’s at,” said Scott Kruger, executive director of the NewBo City Market. “We could do a better job with some help from the city and other organizations within the neighborhood showing people where parking is and giving a better guide of where to go.”

Kruger pointed to Delmar Street in St. Louis, a popular dining loop where parking is identified with “big flashing signs” as a model. In NewBo’s case, if people have to walk a few more blocks, it could give exposure to shops off the main drag, he said.

Gunnerson, the city planner, also agreed with the need to raise visibility of parking options, namely for the sprawling Lot 44 between 12th and Eighth avenues SE along the river, which is free on nights and weekends.

The NewBo area is intended to be an urban district where people leave their cars and walk around, he said. The area has a “park once” philosophy, he said.

“People around here need to learn to walk a block,” said Jon Jelinek, owner of Parlor City, who said he believes parking concerns are overstated. “This is not a big sprawling area you can put parking lots anywhere you want, especially on main street. We want buildings along the street, not parking.”

Gunnerson said while parking is not an issue now, the city is working to manage it as development occurs to ensure it doesn’t become one.


In general, the city requires one parking space per 1,000 square feet of residential space and 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet of restaurant space. Businesses can get parking credits for locating close to bike trails or transit stops, he said.

The city plans to maintain public off-street parking as redevelopment occurs, and as the largest landowner in both NewBo and Czech Village, the city will carry some clout.

The city also is limiting the number of driveways cutting into the street to preserve street parking.

As one example of preserving parking options, the framework for a public subsidy deal for the $23 million ArtTech Village, an entrepreneur-centric housing project, calls for parking lot land deeded back to the city.

The city noted it may eventually use the land, along 16th Avenue SE extension between Fourth and Fifth Street SE, for a parking ramp. The subsidy deal is expected to finalized this month.

Craig Byers, a commercial broker involved with the 329 Building project, is among those who feel parking concerns are unfounded.

“With the city requiring private developers to include ample parking and with city lots and on-street parking, the city is properly parked today and is going to be properly parked 10 years from now,” he said.

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