All those motorists who complained about their cars being towed from the parking garages in the West 7th Street corridor now have a huge parking lot at their disposal. And the $10 parking fee at Farrington Field is half of what the parking garages charge.
So why has Farrington Field’s parking lot looked so, uh, barren?
“It has been slow going, but we’re still really optimistic about it,” said James Hoffman, owner of Varsity Tavern, a popular sports bar nearby.
There is reason for optimism. The Fort Worth school district is allowing West 7th partiers to park their cars at Farrington Fields from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The parking lot is massive –– about 1,500 spaces -–– so it’s going to look a bit empty until word spreads. Only 40 cars were parked at the lot during the first weekend on Oct. 5 to 7.
But that number increased to 200 cars on the second weekend (Oct. 12 to 14), even though Texas-OU weekend in Dallas probably drew some of the folks who might otherwise have been doing the West 7th crawl.
Using a school parking lot for late-night revelers is the brainchild of the W 7th Restaurant & Bar Association, a collection of two-dozen businesses in the area (“West 7th Parking Problem Solved?” Sept. 25). Members raised enough money to lease the parking lot from the school district, which receives half the money from parking fees. The association furnishes parking lot employees and hires off-duty police officers for security.
Hoffman expects the number of cars using the lot to increase to about 500 once the word gets out.
“That gets 500 cars out of the neighborhood and puts them in that parking lot where it is centralized, safe, and monitored,” Hoffman said.
People who park in the lot are within walking distance of the bars and restaurants. And that means fewer cars slowly driving up and down the congested streets looking for curbside parking.
The business association hasn’t done much advertising for the new lot. Members printed up signs to place around the neighborhood. And the group’s Facebook page has spread the word. Also, city officials placed large lighted signs alongside University Drive and West Lancaster Avenue to tell passing motorists about the parking lot at 1400 Foch St.
Comments left on the W 7th Restaurant & Bar Association Facebook page include, “Why such a late start time?” and “Can’t you make it free?”
The school district set the 10 p.m. start time, Hoffman said. Some sporting events held at Farrington Field require parking spaces earlier in the evenings.
The parking lot needs to attract about 150 cars each weekend just to pay for itself, Hoffman said. Overhead expenses include insurance and labor. Think about it: One hundred motorists paying $10 each creates $1,000. Off-duty police charge $45 an hour. Two cops working four-hour shifts is $360. Add in insurance costs and wages for parking lot attendants, and the money disappears quickly, particularly when half the profits go to schools.
Profits to the restaurant and bar association will be dispersed in other ways to help improve the area, Hoffman said. He mentioned hiring more security officers and donating money to proposed transit projects that will make it easier for people to move back and forth between downtown and West 7th Street.
Farrington Field is expected to diminish the congestion that prompted a major developer in the area to limit his parking garages to only motorists frequenting certain businesses. Earlier this year, many people complained that their cars had been towed after they parked in one of the garages and visited businesses that weren’t on the developer’s approved list. The towing fees were about $300. Angry victims characterized the towing as predatory and swore in Facebook comments never to visit the West 7th Street corridor again.
One of the first to complain was a Fort Worth woman who asked that her name be withheld to protect her privacy. Her online rant this summer about her vehicle being towed from the garage garnered more than 800 comments (“Valuing Customers,” Aug. 7).
“I became the Joan of Arc of parking, which I didn’t really mean for that to happen,” she said with a laugh.
She has heard mostly positive feedback about the improved parking situation.
“I’ve heard everybody talking about how much better it is,” she said.
Still, she hasn’t returned to the West 7th corridor since her car was towed, even though the garage owner eventually reimbursed her money.
“I’m fine to either Uber or just not go to that area,” she said.
Business owners are trying to ensure that others keep coming.
“We recognize that there are a lot of cars and a lot of foot traffic, and we presented an opportunity to make it better,” Hoffman said