In a plan to ease Hampden's perceived parking shortage, merchants and community leaders said they are hoping to offer a new community service to the public on weeknights and weekends, using a Johns Hopkins University garage at Chestnut Avenue and West 37th Street.
"We have not yet received an executed copy of the agreement," Brian Dembeck, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Real Estate, said in an email March 17.
.A soft opening is planned starting this month and next, followed by an official start in May and a phasing-in of the service through this fall, said Will Bauer, vice president of the Hampden Community Council and member of the Hampden Village Merchants' Association.
For the month of April, the service wouldl be available Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, and Saturdays from noon until midnight. Signs throughout Hampden would direct motorists directly to a drop-off zone at the four-story, 1,000-space garage, where an attendant for a private parking company will park cars and retrieve them, for a fee of $3-$5, depending on the length of stay, Bauer said.
There would be no self-parking and no overnight parking, he said.
Starting in May, the attended parking garage would expand its hours of operation to seven days a week, again from 5:30 p.m. until midnight, Bauer said.
Phase III is planned to start this summer, with the establishment of Hampden Community Valet, a shared drop-off zone sponsored by participating merchants. The drop-off zone would be outside the old Hampden Republican Club in the 3500 block of Chestnut. Participating merchants would offer validated parking for $5 and non-validated parking for $10, Bauer said.
In the fall, Hampden Community Valet would open a second shared drop-off zone, in the 900 Block of West 36th Street at Elm Avenue, outside the old Avenue Antiques/Ideal Theater building, he said.
Motorists would still be able to go directly to the drop-off site at the garage, Bauer said.
Hopkins officials could not be reached for comment.
The parking plan is spearheaded by the Hampden Parking Task Force, made up of members of the Hampden Community Council and the Hampden Village Merchants Association. The Baltimore City Parking Authority works with the group when it needs help, Bauer said.
Bauer said the attended parking service would be a "major help" in taking as many as 1,000 cars off The Avenue and surrounding streets and making it easier for residents to park near their houses. But he said it would not negate the need for a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, self-parking garage.
In 2000, then-Mayor Martin O'Malley vetoed a City Council bill for a public parking garage on Roland Avenue, saying a comprehensive study of Hampden's parking problems was needed.
"This is the perfect example of when an entire community works together to come up with solutions that don't require government intervention or restriction," Bauer said.
Avenue restaurants Alchemy, The Food Market and Cafe Hon, which provide their own valet parking, could be included in Hampden Community Valet "if they choose," after the second drop-off site is launched, he said.
Alchemy owner Debi Bell-Matassa, for one, said she would need to know more about the planned community parking service and its costs and benefits before she could decide whether to participate.
Benn Ray, president of the merchants' association, said, "The business community is doing everything it can to ease parking pressures in Hampden. It is our hope that using the Hopkins garage as a community lot available to visitors, shoppers, diners and residents alike, will do just that on evenings and weekends."