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Parking and Ice Cream - Lafayette Works To Squeeze Fenton's In

Many locals see it as a two-fer - a great Bay Area brand making a new home in an unused local landmark. The only problem is where to park the minivan.

If city officials and business leaders get their way, the marquee at Lafayette's Park Theater will glow again - this time with ice cream specials instead of matinee titles.

The folks at would very much like to set up shop in the old theater, closed for the last six years, and the city would very much like to have them here.

The problem is where to put the cars the creamery is expected to draw to Plaza Way - an issue for a part of town seeing increased use and no place to create additional parking. Businesses in the area have privately groused about the lack of available parking and say it is driving away potential customers.

A special committee formed to address and hopefully find a solution for the problem meets Tuesday night at 5 p.m. Comprised of city council members, planning commissioners, city staff and downtown business and property owners, the group is looking for a way to bring business to the area and make sure there's a place for customers to park.

So far, possible solutions include "lease-back" arrangements with the owners of nearby parking lots and the creation of a special historic district along what was once, well, the historic first stretch of boardwalk in town - a move that relaxes the standards for parking in an area used for everything from the local farmers market to outdoor movie nights

Business people around Plaza Way said there are plans afoot to make the area more "pedestrian friendly" and to give the Plaza a facelift designed to attract new business - and more customers - to the area.

Parking remains a critical issue and potential deal-killer, with the cost of leasing the required spaces eating into the operating costs of any new business and making their plan less viable. If Fentons were to open now instead of the summer of 2012 they could count on having 12 dedicated parking spots, Park Theater owner Greg Woehrle has said. They need 66.

While the city has hinted it will do what it can to make the Fenton's deal happen, it is clear that other businesses who have found themselves in a similar parking pinch may wonder why they didn't get similar consideration.

carrera August 02, 2011 at 06:19 PM
How much was spent by the City on that random parking lot in the middle of Moraga Road, not at all close to anything except local doctors offices and the former library? The funds used for that lot could possibly have been more productively used closer to downtown.
Sandy August 02, 2011 at 08:03 PM
I can see where others with similarly tight parking in their areas might ask hey, how come I didn't get this sort of attention from the city? It is apparent that Lafayette has a vision of its downtown and (hopefully) that vision may include a truly pedestrian friendly environment downtown and that Fentons would fit in with that self imagery. Aside from the shortage of available parking is the presence of at least one heavily traveled road on Mount Diablo ---- are you going to shut that down? Movie night was nice and the kids enjoyed being out there but they had the sound system for Indiana Jones cranked up to be heard over the traffic and the kids in our group were pretty obviously distracted. I know this is an unpopular position but I would like to see a pedestrian only environment downtown... serviced by BART and perhaps electric shuttles from outskirt parking areas. Pipe dream maybe, but it would be fun.
Tom Chesterman August 02, 2011 at 08:53 PM
How about move the gas station somewhere else and turn that into a parking lot? The gas station seems an odd fit right there.
c5 August 02, 2011 at 09:44 PM
i believe this is a great opportunity fof layayette and we really need to put some thought to find solutions that would enable fentons to locate here. fentons could be a huge boost to the town and would help define downtown in a positive, family oriented way. i hope they find a way to make it happen.
Spencer August 02, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Get creative use of the Park Theater, wonderful tenant. Kudos to the City and property owners for researching alternatives and working with a goal in mind to accommodate Fenton's. Lafayette's willingness to use regulatory powers to achieve this vision speaks volumes of how their downtown has evolved as a place to do business.
bcrane1 August 03, 2011 at 06:05 PM
There's an unused parking lot just east of the theater. It's designated for the businesses on the north side of Golden Gate Way but goes unused. I've heard the landowner can be less than accommodating to put it mildly. Maybe some sort of deal can be made that benefits everyone-- and doesn't kill the profitability of Fenton's?
interestedparty August 03, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Good idea. Only thing is it's hard to get in and out of that station. They'd have to think about the routing of entrances and exits.
michelle August 04, 2011 at 04:14 PM
The Fenton's location in Oakland has a parking lot the size of a postage stamp and somehow they manage to make it work. People walk for many blocks for scoops, sundaes, and frozen goodness. There is plenty of parking ind Lafayette, perhaps not directly outside the door of the theater, but it IS there. Hopefully Lafayette will do what it takes to make it happen, what a boon to the town! Now if only they could get a Zachary's too!
Michael Taylor August 04, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Heaven forbid we should actually have to walk somewhere we needed to go.
Jack Fuller August 04, 2011 at 07:37 PM
66 parking spaces needed? 66 ? ? ?
Spencer August 04, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Sorry, Zachary's is going into downtown Walnut Creek.
jo August 04, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Patxi's is way better than Zachary's
c5 August 05, 2011 at 04:16 PM
we went to the farmer's market yesterday late afternoon and had a chance to look around. there is a building almost directly opposite the theater for sale, and of course there are two (at least late in the day) almost empty parking lots within two blocks of the theater. surely there is a way to make this all work out... and i didn't know that zach's was coming to walnut creek....that's fantastic news!
Kendra loveless August 05, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Actually, that lot is used heavily by parents dropping children off and picking them up at 2 local schools, Lafayette Elementary and Old Firehouse Preschool. there are times when it is full just for that.

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