Saturday, October 1, 2022

Colonial Williamsburg wants to remove a parking lot in Merchants Square. Here’s what’s planned on that site

Artist's rendering of what the P3 lot in Merchants Square after it is transformed into a pedestrian marketplace. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Artist’s rendering of what the P3 lot in Merchants Square after it is transformed into a pedestrian marketplace. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

The P3 parking lot in downtown Williamsburg is tucked between shops and restaurants, but it soon could be transformed into a green field replete with benches and landscaping for lounging guests.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has filed plans to create a pedestrian-friendly green space in Merchants Square – and has received funding from Williamsburg’s Economic Development Authority.

In the concept paper included in meeting documents, Colonial Williamsburg classified a plan to transform the P3 parking into a “Festival Marketplace” that will increase the vibrancy of the area for residents and tourists.

Preliminarily called “Goodwin Square,” Colonial Williamsburg’s plans indicate the square will be an “aesthetically pleasing and inviting space” that is intended to draw more visitors to Merchants Square.

Jeff Duncan, vice president of real estate for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, said the plaza will be designed to host events and play a role in existing events such as An Occasion for the Arts.

“The idea for turning that parking lot into something different has been around for years and years,” Duncan said, adding Colonial Williamsburg has explored possibilities for the lot over the past couple years.

Surrounding restaurants and bars will serve the square’s visitors. The lot is currently bounded by businesses including Ocean Palm, the Precious Gem jewelry store, Blue Talon Bistro, The Shoe Attic and formerly Binns of Williamsburg.

Artist's rendering of what the P3 lot in Merchants Square after it is transformed into a pedestrian marketplace. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Artist’s rendering of what the P3 lot in Merchants Square after it is transformed into a pedestrian marketplace. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Music, video screens and other entertainment will be set up to enhance the experience for guests.

The plans mirror the city’s goals of increasing downtown vibrancy and implementing ideas suggested by independent consultants.

The EDA approved more than $130,000 in demolition grant funding for the project, pending approval from City Council.

The funding will be used for the removal of much of the parking lot. The grant is set aside for the demolition of underused commercial properties, and the amount awarded to recipients is based on the lowest of three separate bids.

The project has been submitted to the city’s Planning Department for conversation. City Council will decide whether to approve an amendment to the city code, the removal of parking spaces and a special use permit.

Overhead of the P3 lot as currently constructed. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Overhead of the P3 lot as currently constructed. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

The lot currently has 48 parking spots, and if approved only eight will remain.

While parking spots will be removed, the city is evaluating parking options in downtown.

Interim City Manager Andrew Trivette will make a presentation to City Council Thursday on the progress of implementation of the parking study the city commissioned in 2016.

“In most cases people circle that lot three times and then go find another place to park anyway,” Duncan said about the often-full lot, adding there are more than 1,000 parking spots in and around Merchants Square.

At least one Merchants Square business owner said she is optimistic that even with the removal of parking spaces, the addition of the Goodwin Square will increase traffic to her business. She said in her experience most of the parking spots are taken by delivery trucks for Merchants Square businesses.

“It’s much more pleasant to walk by a cushy space with a fountain than a parking lot with delivery trucks,” said Janet Lane-Roberts, owner of the Ocean Palm. “That’s my feeling. You just want to walk through a more appealing green space. You’re going to take your time and make that your focal point.”

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