- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Finding a place to park on Sundays is next to impossible in a Northwest neighborhood near the city's convention centers, causing some downtown churches to consider moving and others to seek solutions to the parking problem.
No parking is allowed on some streets in the area around the old and new convention centers bounded by H, Seventh, M and 11th streets NW. Where parking is allowed, some spaces are occupied all day by trucks and commuters.
"Parking and traffic is a major issue," said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, which includes 39 churches.
Mr. Lynch said several churches are "making serious considerations" about moving because of the lack of parking. One already has moved, and three or four others are planning to relocate.
Turner Memorial Church moved on Feb. 28 from Sixth and I streets NW to 7201 16th Place in Hyattsville. There were other factors, but parking space shortages finally swung the balance.
"A major part of it was parking," said the Rev. Darryl E. Walker, who has been pastor for two years.
Church secretary Shirley Rienrick agreed, saying, "That was one of the big reasons for moving."
John Johnson, 71, administrator of 83-year-old Corinthian Baptist Church, said, "Parking seriously affects us."
The church has been located at 500 I St. NW for 46 years, but Mr. Johnson said, "We are thinking about [moving] very strongly." He explained that many parishioners drive from Virginia and Maryland and "can't find spots to park."
St. Stephens Baptist Church plans to move from 628 M St. NW to Temple Hills, said the Rev. Lanier Twyman, the church's pastor.
"One of the issues is parking," Mr. Twyman said. "Our church is growing. There is no room to grow. If we weren't growing, parking would not be so much of a problem."
Even churches with no plans to move cite parking as a drawback for their congregations.
"I don't think we are considering moving, but we are having problems with parking and we have been meeting with other pastors," said the Rev. Alice Davis, executive minister of Shiloh Baptist Church at 1500 Ninth St. NW.
The Rev. Melvin G. Brown, of the 49-year-old Greater New Hope Baptist Church at 816 Eighth St. NW, said, "We are experiencing some negative fallout, [but] we are determined to stay here. The Lord wants to remain a Christian witness in the inner city in downtown Washington."
Mr. Brown, who arrived 17 years ago after obtaining a divinity degree from Harvard University and serving 10 years in Cambridge, Mass., said, "The city is more concerned about development than they are of the plight of churches."
Mr. Brown said while he understands that development will take place because that is progress, the city has done "absolutely nothing to relieve parking for the churches."
Another problem, according to Mr. Lynch, is "very uneven" traffic enforcement, coupled with outdated or obliterated parking signs.
The city plans to update signs and add parking meters to increase the number of parking spaces throughout downtown, and assure timed vehicular parking along the curbs, according to D.C. Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini..
Mr. Tangherlini told The Washington Times on April 9, during a walk through the area around the MCI Center at Seventh Street near H Street, that upward of 1,000 parking opportunities daily will be made available to tourists, shoppers, visitors and churchgoers.
More than 150 parking spaces could be allowed along New York Avenue, Ninth, 11th and H streets NW. A dozen-plus spaces to be added to Eighth Street and the 800 block of F Street would allow 100 short-term parkers each day in spaces in front of the Spy Museum and the MCI Center, Mr. Lynch said. Trucks and commuters now occupy these spaces.
"It's the trucks. They are supposed to stay out in holding areas," said Jim Piccolo, manager of Souvenir City, across from the old convention center. He pointed out a yellow semi-tractor trailer, which he said had been at a parking meter for more than a week.
Construction vehicles and all-day parkers have monopolized many parking spaces since construction of the new convention center began in October 1998, said Ruth Wright, 82, membership secretary of the Mount Vernon Place Methodist and China Community Church.
The church, which offers services in English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Shared English every Sunday, is located across K Street and New York Avenue from the old convention center and the new office building site.
"We're hoping it gets better," said Miss Wright.
Parishioners attending services have been parking across Massachusetts Avenue in a lot next to the new center.
"Marriott is going to build a new hotel there," said Linda Wong, 48, an administrator at the church constructed circa 1900. She wonders where churchgoers will park then.
Lack of parking is not a problem for some business owners in the area who say current parking facilities work for them. They expect more business as the new convention center expands its programs.
"Actually, I imagine [business at the convention center] will help," said Stacy White, 24, of Gaithersburg and manager of Hooters in the 800 block of Seventh Street NW, where parking now seems to have no effect on business.
Mo Maghraoui, 42, manager of Restorante Murali at Ninth and I streets NW, said although "there's no place for parking here, especially when a convention is going on," many customers park in underground garages on each side of the eatery. There are many other nearby underground garages and surface parking lots.
"Parking is not a problem right now," said Parrinder Kumar, 36, Indian owner of Mayur Kabab House, Indian Pakistani Cuisine at 1108 K St. NW.
But construction of an office building over the parking lot next door will block the alley where many of Mr. Kumar's customers park.
Plans are under discussion about tearing down the old convention center and replacing it with a surface parking lot. Other ideas for resolving the parking problem include constructing a building at that site with an underground parking garage. Several underground garages are within walking distance of the center.
"We plan to make some portion of that site available for interim parking," said Chris Bender, spokesman for Planning and Economic Development in the District.
"There is a real effort to try to solve this," said Richard Bradley, executive director of Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, which has conferred with Mr. Tangherlini.
"Dan is very aware of it. He wants to open up additional opportunities," Mr. Bradley said. "We need more short-time parking here."
Mr. Bradley said "booming development" has closed 30 surface parking lots downtown. Nearly 28,000 parking spaces underneath business and government buildings are mostly for employees. Those garages often are closed at night, or unavailable for security reasons.
"Thank goodness for Metro," Mr. Bradley said, explaining that 35 percent of the daily downtown work force of 300,000 uses public transportation.
Only New York City has a higher rate of public transportation users, at 70 percent, he said.
, president of the council for United Church in the 1900 block of G Street NW on the edge of George Washington University near the World Bank.
One 85-year-old woman, who walks with a cane, drove home when police refused to let her park in her usual place at 19th and F streets NW, Miss Dreyfus said.
Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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