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Flowery Branch parking scarcity seen as a good problem as city grows
As downtown lures more business, finding a space is a challenge
Downtown Flowery Branch’s recent growth has caused a parking problem as more visitors shop merchants in the area. One proposed idea would add 22 angular parking spaces up Main Street between Church and Mitchell streets.

Local roundabout stays busy

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The two friends like to “hunt out” fun places to visit, and that search brought them Wednesday to downtown Flowery Branch, where they enjoyed a late-afternoon snack at Calliope Sweets on Main Street.

Visitor Melissa Lyngos, sharing a table with Flowery Branch resident Donna Schneider, was impressed with downtown.

“I live in Cumming, but I’ll come back,” she said. “It’s darling.”

It’s that kind of reaction that merchants love to hear, but downtown Flowery Branch’s growth and popularity is also creating a problem: high demand for a limited number of parking spots.

“Some days, it can be extremely hard to get a parking space for ourselves or our customers, which is the most important thing,” said Patty Phillips, who founded Calliope, downtown’s lone bakery, with sister Diane Hanes six years ago.

Business openings along Main Street, including a new Edward Jones investment firm, and plans for other growth have spurred city discussions about how to provide more spaces around downtown.

One idea is to add 22 angular parking spaces up Main Street between Church and Mitchell streets, a project that could be funded by tax allocation district money.

A TAD is used to improve blighted areas with property tax increments resulting from new growth on public projects. The idea is that the improvements will attract more growth.

That stretch of Main has 12 parallel parking spaces now.

Another 33 parallel parking spaces would be marked as part of a planned repaving this fall of Mitchell Street between Main and the new roundabout at Lights Ferry Road, City Manager Bill Andrew said.

The biggest area of free parking now is on Main between Church Street and Railroad Avenue, a city block that’s closed during festivals, such as one planned for Saturday.

A gravel lot also is off Railroad Avenue, which provides some overflow parking during events, such as the farmers market every Thursday during summer and early fall. But with City Council meetings held the first and third Thursdays every month at City Hall on Main Street, parking can be particularly tricky.

“I’d like to see more down by the Flowery Branch train (off Railroad Avenue),” said Schneider, who also was concerned about limited parking on farmer’s market days. “But don’t put handicapped (parking) down there.”

Downtown parking may become more of an issue next year, after the new City Hall is built off Railroad Avenue. As part of the project, Pine Street will be extended from Church Street to Railroad.

While that will create more spaces, the departure of city offices from Main Street — including the police department — will free up more potential retail space for the city to lease out.

Add that to plans for a new pizzeria, Peyton’s Pie Co., and Growlers on Main draft beer moving to a new location at Main and Mitchell, and parking could get worse.

One suggestion that has come up is the city imposing a two-hour parking limit. That doesn’t sit well with Karen Ching, who owns Liberty Candy Co. on Main Street and the property where Peyton’s and Growlers will sit.

“I think that if Main Street is going to be the destination that every shopkeeper wants it to be, the customer is going to peruse throughout Main Street, not just come into a store for 10 minutes, then turn around and leave,” she said.

“I don’t want anybody to be in a hurry when they come to Main Street. I don’t think two hours ... is enough time.”

Overall, however, merchants agree they have a “good problem” concerning parking, certainly a better situation than years ago when downtown buildings were vacant or held city offices.

“With the development, there’s going to be more people downtown, and that’s great for all the merchants,” Phillips said.