A Source reader who didn’t want to be identified wants to know what’s behind the $3 per hour Pay 2 Park parking charge at Wharfside Village shopping center in Cruz Bay. Parking had been free since the shopping center was built more than 30 years ago.
“There was no place for shoppers,” said Wharfside parking manager Ric Weinschenk. “The only time you could get a parking space is when someone pulled out.”
The parking charge began April 2, and the week before Weinschenk ran a survey of the shopping center’s 45 spaces that sit adjacent to the street and under cover next to the building’s south end. He said there were never less than 22 cars parked that weren’t shopping or working at Wharfside.
Long-term parkers are only part of the problem, Weinschenk said. The parking lot was unsafe. It had many of St. John’s homeless residents sleeping there, it was where drug deals were made, and people got into fights. “And it smelled like urine,” Weinschenk said.
Wharfside installed extensive lighting and has security to make sure that problem stays away.
Weinschenk said the new parking charge is being well-received by people who want to shop. He said that instead of driving around and around Cruz Bay looking for a space, visitors can pull right in.
He said that on Wednesday, there were 145 parking transactions, which means people pulled in, did their shopping or ate at the restaurants, and pulled out leaving the space available for the next shopper.
Of those 45 spaces, nine are reserved for tenants. Wharfside management wouldn’t discuss the cost of those spaces, but the Source reader put a $350 per month figure on them.
Although the Planning and Natural Resources Department mandates that shopping areas include a certain amount of parking per store, DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said it doesn’t appear that the parking has to be free.
While parking is now easier at Wharfside for those who don’t mind paying, St. John Administrator Leona Smith worries that people reluctant to pay for parking at Wharfside will consume even more of the island’s precious parking spaces.
However, she said, she understands one of the problems faced by Wharfside management. “Sometimes people park there and go to St. Thomas,” she said.
And Smith said she hopes Wharfside’s actions don’t start a trend that other shopping centers will follow.