The proposal of a parking garage in three locations on the Oxford Square, including the lot behind City Hall, beside the Oxford-University Club, and on the corner of Van Buren Avenue and South 9th Street, has upset some business owners with properties on those lots.
David and Maryann Hill, owners of the East Jackson Guest House, are reluctant to hand their property over to the city.
“This fight’s been going on all year,” said Summer Hill Vinson, professor at the University of Mississippi and the daughter of the Hills.
Vinson and her family believe the commission has specific motives for wanting to acquire their property in order to construct the garage.
“Three out of the ten people charged with locating the new parking garage have a huge financial incentive to build it next to their businesses so that they receive hundreds of people walking past their businesses from the garage to the Square,” Vinson said. “I can’t say they are intentionally biased, but when you start looking up who people in city government are and what they own, it’s amazing at what you can unearth.”
Mayor Patterson owns University Sporting Goods. Commissioner Jeff Johnson owns Nella’s Clothing, and Commissioner Amanda Hyneman is an employee at Neilson’s, which her father owns.
Vinson believes the “Square-centric” commission is “doing the residents of Oxford a disservice.” For the Hills, their housing complex is clearly a prime spot for out-of-town visitors.
“Business is thriving from returning customers and referrals,” David said. “We’ve sold out for Double Decker and graduation weekend,” Vinson said. “And, we have a wedding party staying there soon.”
However, according to Mayor Patterson, it wouldn’t be in the best economic interest to buy out the East Jackson Guest House.
“My preference would be not to acquire it, but I may be in the minority there,” Patterson said.
The rest of the proposed space is a free-parking lot, used daily by business employees who feel they shouldn’t have to pay for metered parking.
“If they do decide to put a parking garage back there, I hope it’s handled with more grace than the parking meters,” said Paul Fyke, a Square Books, Jr. employee of eight years.
Fyke said the meters keep popping up in free lots, limiting free parking for employees.
“It also bothers me that they’ve not made a way to attain quarters,” Fyke said. “We give out quarters all day.”
Fyke said he hopes the city would give employees parking passes for the garage. There is a projection that the cost to park in the garage will be two dollars.
“It’s still very much a work in progress,” Patterson said.
Goolsby’s Hair World is another one of the property acquisitions, and the owners are not keen on giving their property up either.
“We don’t (want to) do that unless they got hundreds of thousands of dollars. We got a business here,” said co-owner of Goolsby’s, Bobby Goolsby.
Evidently, increased public transportation to the Square has been unsuccessful.
“I think a parking garage would be a more efficient way of dealing with the problem at hand,” Patterson said.
There are also concerns about high construction costs, safety of the area, and ease of access. By law, the garage will need to have handicap accessibility. Therefore, expensive alterations will have to be done to the land in order to level out some of the slight hills and uneven ground.
But, Patterson says it is bound to pay off, especially on football game days. “I think that on game day, every available parking spot from here to Water Valley is full,” he said.
Although some Oxford citizens believe the garage will be an eye-sore, the mayor wants to assure the community that it could be an extremely beneficial addition to the Square.
“I think if it’s done tastefully, it’ll fit in well,” Patterson said. “It should fit like a glove.”
Read the first part of this coverage on the parking garage in Oxford here on HottyToddy.com.
Cambria Abdeen is a HottyToddy.com intern. She can be reached at email@example.com.