Downturn Hits Downtown

June 13, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — There isn’t any reason to wait for Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to offer a sign that shows downtown businesses are in a downturn. Parking Services Director Ted Perez has a key economic indicator of that now.

Perez recently told parking commissioners that the system’s monthly business has lost about 312 paying customers from its peak times late last year and early this year. A study conducted by Pam Ritsema of Parking Services reported that fewer monthly parking cards were being sold, and that the rate of card cancellations has risen in recent weeks.

Ritsema said most business customers were canceling because they were downsizing their staffs. She said others cancelled because they left downtown, while some customers switched to a less expensive option.

Almost all the losses have occurred at the City Centre and Ottawa-Fulton ramps, and a DASH South lot known as Area 6. Each has lost slightly more than 100 customers from last November through January. Together the three accounted for 308 fewer leased spaces.

“We’re beginning to see the effect of the downturn in the parking business,” said Perez.

Perez added that the current downturn was similar to the last economic slowdown that his department went through a decade ago, when monthly parking receipts dropped by 18 percent.

Ellis Parking Co. President and Parking Commissioner Michael Ellis said his company was also losing monthly customers.

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