Parking narrative full of little white lies


D-Day, demolition day, is upon us; the city officially closes the Area 5 (Arena Area) parking lots April 9, eliminating almost another 600 parking spots from the high-volume entertainment area near Hopcat, GR Brewing Co., Waldron Public House, Luna and so many others. The Business Journal opined last week regarding the city’s lack of vision in selling off its parking lots to developers and the very real headaches caused for businesses, employees and clients. Parking is at capacity; new monthly parking permit requests are backlogged and daily passes are nonexistent. The Business Journal has reported for more than 3 years losses by building owners who have, literally helplessly, watched tenants move to suburban communities or seen deals left unsigned for alternatives outside the central city.

The city last week added insult to the injured by way of little white lies: city press releases tout, “the city’s Mobile GR and Parking Services Department is reminding downtown visitors about the more than 9,000 parking spaces available in or near the Arena South district.” These include privately owned Ellis lots (not more affordable city lots), parking areas already near capacity with what few monthly parkers are able to eke from high bidders, lots near Front Street to the west where Grand Valley State University students and most downtown entertainment venue employees are parked and a lot past Wealthy, near the Downtown Market (which also includes permitted monthly parkers). No ramps are reserved for visitors only. 

The city also advises its news release is targeted to visitors for arena, evening and weekend events, though one must ask how a visitor would know the constraints built in the city’s system. Even before the closure, visitors and business owners report nights featuring events at both 20 Monroe Live and the arena are a “nightmare.” Event planners anticipating crowds of more than 500 have told the Business Journal they are looking elsewhere, also because of the tirade of complaints at registration for lack of parking and timely arrivals.

Transparency? If it’s unseen, it doesn’t exist; nor do simple communication efforts with street signage, sustained social media advisories, public transit suited to the very big problem created nor any discussion of the solution since alternatives were suggested at a city commission meeting last December.

The week of April 9, by the way, also marks the beginning of street closures and street parking elimination in the same areas while street, water and sewer construction are underway in one phase or another through September. Next June, the city intends to tear out the south end of Ottawa and eliminate U.S. 131 access points in the Arena District.

The only people who believe the city parking narrative are the politicians and those paid to repeat them. 

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