Orange Metrolink Parking Structure
A block east of Orange’s historic train depot and Transportation Center, a large and handsome structure has taken form. The new Metrolink Parking Structure at the Orange Transportation Center is a welcome sight to many businesses and homeowners in the area, because it’s set to alleviate a plethora of nagging parking issues in Old Towne Orange.
With 608 parking spaces available for transit patrons and downtown visitors—including more than 100 three-hour spaces specifically earmarked for downtown shopping and dining—the $33.2 million structure will undoubtedly be a boon to the area, local business owners say. The parking structure nearly triples the capacity of the lot it replaces.
“We’re really looking forward to the structure’s opening,” says Marco Esqueda, owner of the popular restaurant Taco Adobe on Lemon St., which is right across from the parking structure. “It should ease a lot of the issues our customers have with finding a place to park when they dine here.”
Mark Hilbert, founder of the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, located directly between the Metrolink station to the west and the parking structure to the east, also anticipates the structure’s opening. “As the museum has grown in popularity over the past three years, and has held more special events and opening receptions, parking issues have become paramount. All our patrons are looking forward to the easier parking the structure will offer.”
The parking structure, currently set to open in early February, has been a long time in the planning.
“Parking in Old Towne, especially throughout the late 1990s and into the 2000s, went through a transformation as the area changed from a sleepy downtown to a thriving shopping and dining destination,” says City of Orange spokesman Paul Sitkoff. “The city knew something would have to be done about more parking. At the same time, OCTA was looking to expand Metrolink parking at its stations in Orange County. So it was a natural fit that the city would partner with the Orange County Transportation Authority, which operates Metrolink, on a new parking structure project.”
Two potential locations were originally identified, Sitkoff said: one in the west parking lot of the Depot, and the other on a lot bounded by Lemon St., Chapman Ave., Cypress St. and Maple St. Due to concerns by Metrolink about the effects of major construction close to the railroad tracks, the West Chapman project was eventually shelved. But the Lemon St. project moved forward, with OCTA as construction project manager. Ground was broken in July 2017, and construction commenced.
Marissa Moshier, Historic Preservation Planner for the City of Orange, said that keeping the structure in scale with the look and feel of the neighborhood was of paramount importance. “It was very important, first, that the scale of the building fit in with the character of that part of the historic district,” she says. “So, it’s two stories tall above-grade—with two levels below-grade—to fit in with the height of similar historic industrial buildings. The external finishes were also critical. The blend, color and texture of the brick were chosen to be compatible with the commercial buildings around and near the Plaza.”
The piece of property on which the parking structure is built had a great impact on the growth of both Orange and Southern California, Sitkoff recounts. It was once the location of a Pacific Electric Railway station—the famous “Red Cars”—which at one point in the early 20th century was the largest electric railway system in the world, connecting burgeoning cities in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. “So the space itself ties in intrinsically with Southern California’s agricultural and residential development,” he says.
Sitkoff said that the City of Orange and OCTA have “worked very hard together, for the better part of a decade, to bring this structure to reality. We know that parking is a great concern for our residents and businesses, and we have heard what they have to say,” he says. “The structure has been something we’ve pursued relentlessly in order to keep Orange a great place to live, work and shop. I think it’s fair to say that everyone is excited. Merchants and residents have long been asking for additional parking. And now it’s finally here.”