Getting the word out about Watertown’s parking garage

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:48 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Wouldn’t it be great to have a public parking garage in Watertown within a 5-minute walk to downtown? Wait, we do, and it’s been there since the 1970s. Few use it and many forget about it.

There are 92 covered spaces and 28 open-air spaces off Court Street. On Wednesday, 7 News had the only car parked there.

One developer estimates it’d cost $3 or $4 million for Watertown to build it today.

“An enormous amount of money. And we have it. It’s just not utilized,” said Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith.

City officials and property owners we spoke with say, aside from people who work downtown, many just don’t know it’s here.

“I wouldn’t say the general public knows where the parking is downtown. There’s not really good directional signage or anything for them to get where they gotta get. I mean, off the square, it leads them to JB Wise parking, but that’s only a certain spot on the square to make that turn down to JB Wise. Most people don’t realize it’s there,” said Steve Bradley, S&J Properties of Watertown.

So, how to get the word out? The mayor says businesses and patrons can help spread the word. Both he and Bradley say more signs could help and they say media coverage has a role to play.

Neither believes a lack of parking is the problem.

“Just go up to Lake Placid, where people park and walk great distances and actually pay for parking,” said Smith.

There are five large free and public parking lots around downtown. None is more than a five-minute walk from the heart of downtown.

To see just how long it takes to get from the parking garage to Public Square, we timed it out. We got there in less than 5 minutes

Something even closer to the garage than the square is the YMCA’s currently-being-built community and aquatics center.

YMCA officials say the covered parking area is perfect for the large events and daily activities that will be happening when the center opens.

“Folks coming in for swim meets, parents, they’ll be able to park underneath with their car in while they’re coming to meets. Employees will probably park there. And we expect members will park there and use the garage during the time when covered parking is really a wonderful, wonderful thing,” said Watertown Family YMCA CEO Denise Young.

Even with events coming up at the Y, the lot is open to the public. More than 100 free parking spaces - most covered from rain and snow.