New downtown parking lot nears completion

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

September 18, 2013

A new parking lot is nearing completion in downtown Mount Airy, just as the fall tourist season and two major events — Mayberry Days and the Autumn Leaves Festival — are approaching.

The lot, located on Virginia Street just off North Main Street to the rear of Leon’s Burger Express, will contain about 50 spaces.

It was hoped the facility would be completed during the spring, but Mother Nature had a different agenda.

“We were slowed down by the weather,” said Ted Ashby, a local banker serving as president of Downtown Mount Airy Inc. and its recently renamed successor group, Mount Airy Downtown Inc. The organization undertakes parking, landscaping and other infrastructure improvements using funds from a special Municipal Service District (MSD) tax levied on property owners downtown.

“We were about two months behind schedule from where we thought we would be,” Ashby added Tuesday of the project, which also was stalled by having to relocate electrical facilities at the site.

However, the work has benefited from dry weather in the past two or three weeks. This is fueling optimism that the parking lot might be completed before Mayberry Days, an annual event that begins at the end of next week.

Crews are “pushing hard” to achieve this, Ashby said, and should be successful — “if we continue to have dry weather.” The Autumn Leaves Festival in October will be another beneficiary of the extra parking spaces.

The asphalt has been applied to the lot and work there on Tuesday included the use of a steamroller to compact the surface. Lines marking off the spaces and landscaping also remain, Ashby said.

Plans for the new lot have been in the works since May 2011, when officials approved the spending of $85,000 for the former Shelton Plumbing property, which led to a building being razed there. In September 2012, another $36,500 was allocated for the project — to buy more land for expanding the number of spaces from the 32 originally planned — and to cover work at the site.

Although parking availability has been an ongoing issue in Mount Airy’s central business district, Ashby indicated that this can partly be addressed through improved signage to inform the public about the locations of various lots.

“What we probably need to do is give better directions,” he said of the downtown group.

But the new parking lot on Virginia Street is expected to be a welcome addition, not only for visitors to Mount Airy but owners and employees of downtown businesses.

“Fifty more spaces obviously is a big deal,” Ashby said.

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