Since when did West 7th Street become Manhattan? Three of us Weeklyans went to eat lunch the other day at Tortaco, a new restaurant. Unable to find any curbside parking, we pulled into one of the parking garages. After our tasty meal –– the Diablo Shrimp bowl is magnífico –– we asked our server to validate our parking ticket.
“We can’t validate,” she replied. “We are a standalone restaurant.”
Numerous shops, bars, restaurants, and apartment complexes line a five-block stretch of West 7th Street between the Cultural District and downtown. But only some of those venues lease their space from West 7th, a development bordered by West 7th Street on the north, Foch Street on the east, Morton Street on the south, and University Street on the west. Fort Worth-based Vestar oversees the properties, including the multilevel parking garages. Official “West 7th” merchants can validate garage parking for their customers. Other businesses can’t, even though some are within West 7th’s boundaries. Tortaco sits literally next door to one of the parking garages.
We also didn’t know that Vestar had rescinded free two-hour parking in the garages effective October 23. And we did not know that the garages charge a flat parking rate now. For one hour of parking to eat lunch, we were required to pay $20.
We expressed our concern about the high rate to the woman who was working the ticket booth and asked whether she had been getting an earful from other area customers.
“Oh, yeah, people are mad, but if they shop with one of our tenants, they can get their ticket validated,” she said.
We came up with the bright idea to back up our vehicle (greatly pissing off the motorist behind us at the ticket booth), re-park, and go buy something cheap from an official merchant, thereby getting our parking ticket validated. The cheapest thing we could find was a $6 chocolate bar. But we got our ticket validated, saving us a grand total of $14.
A Vestar official said the fees were raised because the parking garages were being filled with cars, leaving some West 7th/Vestar customers, merchants, and employees without places to park.
“Unfortunately, we do not have enough parking spaces to provide parking for the neighborhood around us, which has a shortage of adequate parking for its customers,” said Vestar General Manager Max Holderby in an emailed reply.
Lack of sufficient parking has been a problem in the West 7th Street area for years, and the crisis is getting worse as developers continue to build more venues in an already glutted area. The city’s zoning ordinance requires no minimum parking spaces unless a business is located in a residential-zoned property or within 250 feet of one.
If someone wants to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into a business with no parking spaces in an area with little curbside parking, that is their right. But don’t count on Vestar to provide free parking for everyone anymore.