By Kevin Collison
The City Market will end free parking during work hours starting March 1, eliminating what had evolved to become an informal park-and-ride deal for the rest of downtown since the streetcar began rolling in May 2016.
“What happened was downtown businesses figured out our parking was free, and people started letting go of downtown monthly parking and parking here,” said Deb Churchill, property manager for the City Market.
“Our employers and customers couldn’t find parking. It’s been a gradual process.”
The new charge will apply to the four perimeter parking lots around the City Market. Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., people will be charged $1 per hour for parking. Parking will remain free in those lots in the evenings and weekends.
The Market Square lot in the interior of the historic City Market complex will remain free for short-term parking, but the time limit will be cut back from three to two hours. After two hours, vehicles will be ticketed and towed.
Provisions are being made for employees working in the area.
City Market tenants will receive free hangtags for access to the perimeter lots. There will be a limited number of monthly parking permits (300) for employees at other River Market businesses for $55 per month.
The City Market’s decision to begin charging for its perimeter lots comes at a time the city is introducing parking meters in the River Market. A pilot program began last fall from Third to Fifth streets from Grand Boulevard to Main.
Beth Breitenstein, a spokeswoman for the city, said four vendors have participated in the pilot program and a decision is expected soon on who’ll will be chosen to eventually install parking meters throughout the River Market.
The City Market also is introducing a plan to reduce weekend congestion in its perimeter lots and adjoining streets during the busy market season from March 1 through Oct. 31. The four lots will be staffed on weekends during that period.
Delineators also will be set in the center of Fifth Street and Grand Boulevard to minimize cross traffic and backup from the streetcar. Premier Parking is the firm that will monitor and manage the lots.
Churchill said that after some adjustments, the new parking policy has gotten good feedback.
“Everyone felt it was a good compromise,” she said.
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