After getting unanimous approval for an updated pay structure for downtown parking garages, Burlington’s Department of Public Works decided to back off on a July 1 implementation.
Now, the city is recommending a Jan. 1, 2021, start date for the new program, one that would eliminate two-hours free parking at the popular Marketplace garage but with a validation program.
The Public Works Commission, which passed the initial proposal on June 17, will discuss the new target date at its next meeting in mid-July.
“We understand this is a big change for visitors to our downtown,” Department of Public Works director Chapin Spencer said in a Friday news release. “Although the financial realities of COVID-19 were the catalyst for this change, the economic impact of COVID-19 on the businesses in our downtown also dictated that the rollout be managed and scheduled appropriately. Therefore, we will be working with the downtown merchant community to ensure that this transition will be seamless.”
When the new rules kick in for Marketplace garage, visitors will pay $1 per-hour for the first two hours to help offset a recent drop in revenues. Under a proposed validation program, parking fees would be waived if patrons check in with local merchants or Fletcher Free Library, department spokesman Rob Goulding said earlier in the week.
The Lakeview and College Street garages will continue to have the 2-hour free parking option under the new policy. And a merchant validation program for restaurant and retail employees to park for free at the College Street and Lakeview garages is also on the table.
“The removal of two-hours free at Marketplace should encourage a measurable percentage of parkers to seek out the Lakeview and College Street garages for two-hours free and relieve the pressure on the Marketplace Garage,” Padgett said. “It should increase turnover, decrease the amount of downtown employees ‘cycling’ every few hours, and decrease the amount of times we have to close the facility every day.”
In the same release, Kara Alnasrawi, executive director of the Church Street Marketplace, said the delay was good news.
“The merchants on the Church Street Marketplace are pleased to hear that this program will not be rolling out immediately,” Alnasrawi said. “In these unprecedented times, our locally-owned small businesses need to offer visitors every incentive possible to come downtown.”
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