GRAND RAPIDS — Parking activity seems to be a pretty good indicator of economic conditions in the central business district, and the most recent numbers reveal that action is picking up.
“We’re seeing a slow upward trend,” said Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema.
Ritsema based her cautiously optimistic remark on monthly parking for the end of the first quarter of the city’s fiscal year. Those numbers showed there are 191 more monthly parkers in the downtown system than there were a year ago: 5,959 vs. 5,768.
Much of the increase is fairly recent, too. About 100 of those new parkers, most often downtown workers, began filling spaces in city lots and ramps over the last quarter.
The biggest gainers were the Government Center and Pearl Ionia ramps, as more than 100 monthly parking cards were issued for both over the past year. Both the Ottawa Fulton and Louis Campau ramps lost monthly parkers.
The DASH 9 parking lot, which opened last month as part of the DASH West shuttle service, debuted with a sellout as 344 monthly permits were sold for the lot on Seward Avenue between Bridge and Lake Michigan Drive streets. DASH 9 has 244 parking spaces.
DASH 9 was built because much of the DASH 8 lot is closed. The YMCA will break ground Friday on the lot for the Y’s new $26 million building. The city will lose the southern two-thirds of DASH to the project, but will still have 125 spaces for the DASH West service. Plus, another 50 spaces are being built in the DASH 7 lot.
Ritsema said the DASH system serves about 200 visitors each weekday. These are people who pay the daily $1.50 park-and-ride fee. These customers will be moved to the Scribner lot, at Scribner and Bridge NW, while the other DASH lots will be used for monthly parkers.
The city will also lose about 50 spaces at the Area 3 lot on Ionia near Weston. Rockford Development is getting ready to option a portion of that lot for a new commercial project.
“We should be able to accommodate most of them at Area 3,” said Ritsema.
Ritsema added that the city-owned lot on Monroe Avenue and Trowbridge Street would also be put into play to pick up some of the parking roulette. But the biggest change to the city’s downtown parking system will arrive in nine weeks.
“City Centre is going to close on Dec. 31,” said Ritsema of the 41-year-old ramp with 517 parking spaces. “On Jan. 1, (monthly parkers) will just report to their new locations.”