Activity is on the rise downtown

January 13, 2012
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Some recent results from the Parking Services Department indicate that economic activity is on the upswing in the Central Business District.

One, the department’s annual 60-minutes-free parking offer during the past holiday season was the most successful one since 2008. The final tally showed that 953 free-parking coupons were redeemed and parkers who spent more than an hour in one of the city-owned ramps spent $2,449 on additional parking from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31. Both figures topped the totals for 2009 and 2010.

Thirty-one downtown merchants participated in the last program, which was up from the 23 who did the same the previous year. Business owners ordered 4,715 coupons and roughly 20 percent were given to customers. “These (coupons) were pretty evenly distributed throughout the day. The most heavily used ramp was Monroe Center,” said Pam Ritsema, who directs the city’s Enterprise Services division, which includes Parking Services.

More than half of the coupons, 492, were used to park in the Monroe Center ramp, which also offers a free hour if a parker enters before 6 p.m. So, in effect, those who redeemed the holiday coupons before 6 p.m. actually received two hours of free parking in that ramp. Even so, the revenue Parking Services received for the additional parking during the promotion topped the $1,179 it collected in 2009 and the $1,885 it got in 2010.

In addition, Parking Services Supervisor Alen Ganic said revenue to the department from New Year’s Eve day was $34,711, up from $34,600 last year.

“Some of the parking spaces turned over three times during the course of the day,” he said.

Also, the department’s parking status report showed 6,129 monthly cards are in play this month, which is the highest total since January 2008. The downtown system’s number of monthly parkers peaked in January 2007 when 6,605 cards were active.

“What we’re seeing is what I would call slow, moderate growth over the last three years,” said Ritsema.

Another factor is gross parking revenue to the department stood at $6.3 million for the first half of the fiscal year, which is up by more than 11 percent from the same period last year. But Ritsema pointed out that the expenditures Parking Services incurred from July 1 to Dec. 31 weren’t in the report because the city is changing its accounting system. She also noted that she wasn’t certain how reliable the revenue figure is because of the changeover. “I can say parking revenues are up. But that’s all I can say,” said Ritsema.

GVSU’s Mark Rambo and The Rapid’s Peter Varga took their seats on the Parking Commission. They’re replacing David Leonard and former board chairwoman Lisa Haynes, who were term limited. Joan Rosema-David and Michael Ellis were reappointed to the commission for another three-year term. The board chose Kevin Denhof, physical security director at the Van Andel Institute, as its new chairman.

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