The city has been working with developers to revamp downtown parking to offer more parking spaces for visitors. This includes adding three new parking garages, a new parking lot and expanding existing parking lots.
However, these parking garages are not expected to be open during the holiday season—a time when the square experiences an increase in traffic due to events and holiday shopping.
“The idea is to hopefully get enough parking to where people don’t have to circle and feel that there’s nowhere for them to park,” Assistant City Manager Barry Shelton said.
With the addition of two public parking garages, a third garage for tenants only, a new parking lot and additional street parking, approximately 849 new parking spaces will be added and open to the public sometime next year, Shelton said.
Prior to construction, downtown offered 2,576 parking spaces, according to the city’s 2014 parking study. As construction continues throughout the holidays, there are 2,255 public parking spaces available, but that number is expected to increase to approximately 3,418 when the parking garages and the Playful Corp. lot opens, Shelton said.
“There’s a squeeze on parking today, but once we build the lots and the garages we have planned, I think everyone will be happy with the results,” he said.
Growing pains to end in 2018
A planned parking garages and parking lot will be located south of the square, one will be located southwest of the square and another is planned northeast of the square.
The parking garage at Davis at the Square, located at the southeast corner of Davis and Tennessee Streets, will have 201 public parking spaces and expects to open in early 2018. When the 9-acre development surrounding the garage opens, an additional 119 street spaces will open nearby, Shelton said.
The Playful Corp. parking lot located at the southwest corner of McDonald and Davis streets will offer 132 spaces to the public during nights and weekends. This is expected to be open summer 2018, Playful Corp. Operations Manager Jessica Spence said in an email.
McKinney City Council is re-evaluating the third parking garage, Chestnut Commons, located at the southeast intersection of Herndon and Chestnut streets.
Current plans for the structure include 315 spaces and leave Herndon open.
If council votes to close Herndon, the parking structure will offer about 400 spaces. This structure plans to open in summer 2018, said J. Martin Sanchez, CEO of the Sanchez Group, which is developing the parking garage.
A fourth, private parking garage named 205 Louisiana garage will be added at the southeast intersection of Church and Louisiana streets that will only be open to building tenants.
“I feel with these downtown parking improvements and some of the developments ... [that they are] the right thing for downtown, but there are growing pains,” Shelton said.
As holiday events, such as Home for the Holidays and Santa on the Square, begin in late November, the square and downtown businesses see an increase in traffic.
There are less parking spaces downtown now than there were during the 2014 holiday season.
Most public parking spaces can be found north of the square, Shelton said. There are eight parking lots to the north with 650 spaces, and four parking lots with 243 spaces are available to the south. An additional lot, which offers 75 spaces, is located between Virginia and Louisiana streets bordering Church Street.
In addition to parking garages, the city expanded two parking lots, adding supplementary parking spaces. These lots reopened Sept. 22.
Lot 1, located at the northeast corner of Tennessee and Hunt streets, now offers 172 spaces compared to the 106 it offered prior to construction.
The First United Methodist Church parking lot, also called Lot H, located at the northwest corner of Logan and Kentucky streets was also revamped to add an additional 47 public spaces. This lot now offers 91 public spaces.
“I think in the meantime, [these projects] will cover our parking needs,” Shelton said.
Those visiting downtown also have the option to take McKinney DASH, or the Downtown Area Shuttle, to and from the square and parking lots. The free downtown shuttle program launched in June with hopes of alleviating downtown parking congestion, according to city officials.
“DASH has been very successful, and the idea is to help get people from some of the more perimeter parking lots down to downtown and back with all their stuff they bought from our downtown merchants,” Shelton said.
DASH operates Monday-Saturday at various times and does not operate on Sunday. However, times and traffic patterns may change during holiday events, Shelton said.
Parking directly on the square
The problem with downtown McKinney has always been that there are not enough parking spaces directly on the square, Shelton said.
“That’s always been the struggle—getting parking downtown but also getting customers to know where the available parking spaces are,” he said. “[Visitors] can go two blocks away and find available spaces. There’s nothing you can do to add spaces on the square without tearing down buildings. That’s not going to happen.”
Some residents, such as Ronnie Thomason, owner of Thomason Tire, do not think the city has a parking problem but rather a walking problem, because people do not want to walk to the square and would rather find a place to park on the square.
Terry Box, a former Collin County sheriff and lifelong McKinney resident, said parking in downtown has been a hassle for the past 20 years when the area gained popularity and became a destination.
In the past year to year in a half, parking has improved, though, Box said.
“I’ve never failed to really find a parking space if I go downtown,” he said. “It may not be convenient and [I’ve] had to circle several times, but the only time it’s ever really a hassle is when they close the square off or they block all the streets off around the square.”
The square closes to through traffic for Home for the Holidays, Scare on the Square and other major city events, which take place about eight times each year.
The city typically conducts a parking study every three or four years and plans to conduct another one when some parking garage projects are complete, Shelton said.
“I would say that there’s no silver bullet,” he said. “There’s no one thing we can do that’s going to solve all the problems for parking downtown. These are steps in the right direction, but they’re not the only steps, and we’ll continue looking at parking and constructing parking over the next several years as we need it.”