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Jonesboro holding meeting on parking

By Ed Brock

Jenny Brochu is relatively new to working in downtown Jonesboro, but already she knows the parking dance.

It goes like this. Come to work and circle until a space opens up, preferably behind the building on Main Street where she works.

"We park up front if there's no space," Brochu said.

Parking is a heated subject for Jo Lynne McEwen, owner of Simple Pleasures on Main Street, and she plans to attend the March 1 meeting the city is holding for other business owners on Main Street to discuss the issue.

"I am going to the meeting and I hope everybody on this block goes," McEwen said. "It affects us all."

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day and Councilman Clifford "Rip" Sewell will conduct the meeting, scheduled to start around 6 p.m. at the Jonesboro Police Department headquarters on Main Street. The focus of the meeting is the use of the diagonal parking spaces in front of the businesses on Main Street between the old Trifles and Treasures building and the new Arts Clayton building on the corner of Church and Main streets.

For example, there's the possibility of limiting the amount of time people can spend in those parking spaces, perhaps to one or two hours.

"People are leaving their cars there all day," said Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker.

City officials are hoping to get input from the residents, Walker said.

Linda Summerlin, director of Arts Clayton, said she plans to go to the meeting, too.

Summerlin said she's lived in Jonesboro all her life.

"You always just accepted the fact that you rode around until you found a spot," Summerlin said.

The opening of the new Arts Clayton gallery, previously located on the other side of the railroad tracks that divide downtown Jonesboro, has already increased the pedestrian traffic on the Main Street drag.

"The things we're doing is only going to increase that more," Summerlin said.

In fact at some point in the future she's expecting tour buses to come to the gallery.

Sumerlin said most visitors to the gallery spend less than two hours there, so putting a time limit on the parking spaces wouldn't be too bad. She thinks the businesses and law offices on the street should make it a part of their daily routine to ask people who may be staying longer than two hours to park in the space behind the row of buildings lining the street, or in the city's new parking lot behind the Heritage Bank building.

"If anybody wants to get to Arts Clayton badly enough they'll park and walk down," Summerlin said.

She doesn't like the idea of reserving spaces for individual businesses because that can't be policed. But Arts Clayton will comply with whatever the city decides.

"Whatever they do just needs to be fair across the board for everybody," Summerlin said.

Brochu, shopping in McEwen's store on Thursday, said she wouldn't be inclined to walk to the store from the new parking lot that is on the other end of the street from Simple Pleasures.

"If there were more shops down here I would," Brochu said.

McEwen is also very concerned about the city's plan to eliminate seven parking spaces by expanding the sidewalk and turning the spaces into parallel parking.

The city has said a parking deck planned for the lot where the new parking lot has been built will more than replace those parking spaces.

But McEwen said most of the customers she's spoken with feel the same way as Brochu about parking further away.

"It will kill me," said McEwen, who already closed the Trifles and Treasures store that she also owns. "I can't see how it will do anything but hurt me."

Call Jonesboro City Hall at (770) 478-3800 for more information on the meeting.