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Two city-owned parking lots in the Royal Square neighborhood, the block bordered by East King Street, South Queen Street, East Princess Street and South Duke Street, sit mostly vacant.

Maybe five or six cars are parked in each of them at any given time, according to Royal Square Development and Construction officials. The group's president and CEO Josh Hankey, vice president of real estate development Dylan Bauer and planning consultant Joe Musso addressed the city's General Authority on Thursday morning.

Royal Square wants to buy Lots Three and Four, which are on the interior of Royal Square and border many Royal Square properties and some of its own parking lots. The group plans to turn the area into a large space for parking that would double as an outdoor venue for community events such as movie screenings.

It's part of a larger plan to develop the interior of the block, especially toward Princess Street. Hankey described that area as blighted and crime-ridden and said Royal Square intends to fill it in, mainly with apartments. Hankey said he believes having a large public space in the area will aid in the block's full revitalization.

The space also would allow events such as Equality Fest to come off the street and inside the block, Bauer said.

The company's plans include removing a fence that divides the larger of the two lots (Lot Three) from one that Royal Square owns to create a large expanse of parking space that extends to either side of East Newton Avenue and both sides of South Howard Avenue (alleys bisecting the block) and includes a total of 137 spaces.

The company plans to beautify the space, putting in LED lighting and planting trees. It would repave the entire space and put in curbs and islands, Bauer said.

Royal Square made an offer of $70,000 for both lots and expressed that the company would like to finalize the deal by Nov. 1 so that work can begin in spring.

"I like the idea, but, generally speaking, we don't sell parking lots so that other people can park on them," Pam Zerba, chairwoman of the General Authority, said during the meeting.

Members of the General Authority said they could not start the negotiating process because they are not sure of the lots' value, but they will get an appraisal. The proposal will again be discussed at the authority's next meeting, on Oct. 15.

The neighborhood: The expanded parking lot would serve those who live and work in the Royal Square area, Bauer said. It would be by permit only, and on weekends those who park there could be "repositioned" to allow for open space.

"I think there's enough parking here," Joe Greenberg, co-owner of Traffic Black, a furniture design studio and store on South Duke Street that nearly adjoins the larger city parking lot Royal Square is eyeing.

According to its plans, with the lots' redesign Royal Square would actually be subtracting 22 of the existing spaces from the area.

Greenberg likes the idea of turning the parking lot into a venue for community events.

"I think that'd be a good use of the space," he said.

Alexandra Dwyer, vice president of retail development for Royal Square, said on Thursday that the parking lot project is the company's attempt to "get ahead of the game." She believes the success of the Bond wedding and events venue on East King Street, which she said regularly draws 250-300 people, and plans for future development in the area that includes apartments, two restaurants on South Duke Street and potentially retail behind the Bond, will create higher demand for parking in the future.

If restaurant employees and the company's residential and commercial tenants have space to park inside the block, Bauer said, it will free up space on the street for those who are just passing through.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.

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