Commissioners favor a courthouse parking lot redesign that adds 24 spaces

Image of a rendering of the Downtown Ravenna courthouse parking lot
A rendering of Main Street Ravenna's proposed downtown courthouse parking lot. Image by Implement Studios

With parking at a premium in downtown Ravenna, Portage County commissioners are reviewing proposed layout options for the deteriorating parking lot behind the county courthouse building.

They have three main options:

Option 1 would preserve the existing lane layout while Option 2 would start from scratch, potentially resulting in a layout that would eliminate long lanes of cars. Both of these were developed by Main Street Ravenna, which champions installing green spaces around downtown as a way to encourage people to visit area businesses.

A third option from Ravenna’s city engineer envisions more of an oval layout with river rock in the middle of it, possibly to protect the lot’s light poles, Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett and Internal Services Director JoAnn Townend surmised.

Main Street Ravenna’s goals aside, Townend and the commissioners agreed that installing islands of greenery, river rocks or any other kind of barriers in the lot would both affect snow plowing and result in tight maneuvering for some vehicles. (Main Street Ravenna could not be reached for comment.)

While costs are unknown pending architectural designs and a bidding process, Christian-Bennett said the commissioners favor Option 1, preserving the current layout while removing the guardrails in the lot.

Given the commissioners’ eventual goal of bringing on another county judge, which would mean more staff and more jurors who need parking, the number of available spots is critical.

The commissioners’ recent discussions hinge on two parking spaces: Option 1 has 164 spaces, while Option 2 has 162. Both provide more parking spots than the current configuration, which has 140. No one has counted the number of spots in the city engineer’s version, Townend said.

“Parking is a problem. Even two spots can be crucial to our operation,” Christian-Bennett said. “We need to get as many as we possibly can.”

Adding greenery to the courthouse lot may make the lot more inviting, but cannot be at the expense of daily operations, Christian-Bennett said. She notes that the courthouse lot is available for public use after hours and on weekends.

“You want the most parking spaces you can get. You do want to have some green spaces, but it doesn’t need to be huge,” Townend said.

Scott Hutchinson, general manager at Guido’s Pizza of Ravenna, says parking is tight in downtown Ravenna. He has had to call the police to remove cars that have occupied 30-minute and two-hour spots for two or three days.

“I’ve had people call and cancel reservations because they said there’s nowhere to park,” he said. “That would just be proof that we’ve lost business. People drive by and see that there’s no parking for a mile in any direction, chances are they’re going to look for somewhere else.”

The Ravenna police do not have a staff member dedicated to enforcing parking regulations, on-street or elsewhere.

Ravenna attorney Ralph Megargel’s law office is adjacent to the courthouse, where he often conducts business.

“I have not observed parking being an issue in downtown Ravenna,” he said. “I have not heard anyone complain about parking being an issue. I have not had anyone suggest that they could not find a place to park.”