LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) — The city of Lebanon will soon be able to expand its parking options downtown as the area experiences a resurgence in interest and development.
Last week, Mayor Rick Bell signed a contract to purchase two vacant lots that will be turned into more public parking for the Historic Downtown Square. The lots are located on the corner of South Cumberland and West Gay streets, according to a release from the city.
“When the vacant lots became available on the south side of the square, I saw an immediate opportunity to expand public parking for our historic square,” Bell said in the release. “Our local businesses at the core of our city are thriving, and with the recent announcements of new stores and restaurants, we needed to act quickly to purchase the land.”
The last few years, Bell told News 2, have seen a resurgence in the downtown square.
“The past few years, our downtown square has seen a lot of investment,” he said. “A lot of businesses have come to that area, which we’re thrilled with.”
New clothing boutiques, restaurants and arts and music stores now inhabit the square, giving residents and visitors alike plenty of opportunity to take in the local flavor, Bell said, but one thing the square couldn’t accommodate as well was a place for cars.
“It is what it always has been,” he said of the interior of the square.
So when the land came available through local agent Jay Bradshaw, Bell said he immediately called to inquire.
“When I first called him about it, I saw his sign go up and he said, ‘We have a contract on it already,’ and I said, ‘Jay, if something happens, be sure and call me,’ and he did,” Bell said.
Eventually, Bell worked with Bradshaw and the property owners, another longtime local family, for the purchase of the property, which was subsequently approved by the city.
“When I saw that, I really felt like we needed to jump at the opportunity to provide more parking, and thankfully the council agreed with me,” he said. “Now we’re in the process of designing a new parking lot.”
Bell’s signing comes after the Lebanon City Council unanimously approved the $301,622.14 purchase in November. The project is now in the design phase, with project leaders looking at lighting, stormwater improvements and landscaping to keep the parking area in line aesthetically with the rest of the historic space.
The land is not large enough to accommodate a parking structure, Bell said, but it could fit anywhere from 35 to 50 parking spaces depending on the design, which the mayor said is with engineers currently.
“With the continued economic growth and popularity of merchants and restaurants around downtown, parking has become a premium,” Bell said. “We are excited that these two vacant lots will be turned into additional parking spaces and will prove extremely helpful to everyone who works, shops, and dines on Lebanon’s historic square.”
Bell thanked all those involved in the purchase, from the Lebanon City Council, Bradshaw and the Whitt family.
“The thing about Jay and the Whitt family was they wanted to do something good for Lebanon, too,” he said. “They realized this was an opportunity for their hometown to be able to have something and to assist in that part, so I’m thankful for them for giving us the opportunity, and I think it’s going to be great for everyone.”
Once a final design comes in, Bell said the city will bid out the construction process.
“We’re really proud of it,” Bell said of the square. “We’re thankful for the people who’ve invested in it. I see this parking lot as just one small step of us being able to help not only the businesses there now but the future ones, too, and help that growth.”