WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Winter Haven is growing as more people are moving to town and more eateries, shops, housing developments, and hotels are planting roots too.
That’s exciting to Eric Labbe, the city’s Economic Opportunity and Community Investment Director.
“We have a couple of hotels that are in the works. One that’s under construction now," he said. "There’s an apartment complex on the south side of downtown that’s under construction now.”
But with growth comes growing pains, and the newest one might be parking.
In its downtown, Winter Haven has a mix of about 1,300 on-street and off-street parking spots. The city provides about 270 public parking spaces in a parking structure near 3rd Street NW and Avenue A NW.
According to the city, its public parking is typically about 70% full during peak hours.
“Right now, you know, parking is a pretty good situation in the City of Winter Haven," said Labbe.
However, there are already signs that the currently available parking might not be enough as the growth continues.
“You can see, we’re pretty full," Labbe said, as he strolled past parking spots lining the city's Central Park. “It is — what? 11 o’clock on a Wednesday, and the Central Park area’s pretty full.”
In anticipation of the city's growing parking need, Labbe says the city is being proactive. Soon, a team of hired consultants will craft a series of recommendations that answer a key question: How can the city accommodate the public’s need for parking?
To answer that question, however, the city wants to hear from the people who live, work, play, and park downtown.
Additionally, the city will host a public meeting at the Gram Parson’s Derry Down on Thursday, June 23 at 6 p.m.
“We want to know how the community feels about (parking)," Labbe said. "How the citizens feel about that? Do they have proposed solutions? Are there pressure points or pain points that they see in certain parts of downtown as far as parking goes?”
Ultimately, consultants will use the feedback to craft recommendations that Winter Haven commissioners might act on.