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Posted: July 1, 2013 Committee strives to bring awareness to available parking areas

A parking committee comprised of Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. members and downtown business owners from the South Barstow Business Improvement District is making strides to ensure parking is available and convenient throughout the downtown business district.

After reviewing city parking studies that dated back to the 50s, the committee realized the same issues had been recurring for decades, said Leah Akervik the DECI economic development clerk and member of the committee.

“We realized that there are enough parking spaces, but there is the perception there is not because everybody wants to park very close,” she said.

One problem the committee has seen and are trying to solve is business owners and employees parking in prime locations in front of the downtown businesses, leaving little space left for customers, Akervik said.

“A lot of businesses know that’s bad for them when they have a retail sale,” she said.

An answer to the problem, she said, was to open up other lots, previously metered, in the area for business owners and downtown employees to park in. The Haymarket lot and the Farwell St. parking lot have both been opened as options for free parking downtown during the S. Barstow Street reconstruction project.

Dan Goelzer, member of the parking committee and owner of The Calico Shoppe, said he would encourage downtown business owners and employees to use the free “long term” parking options to free up the 2 hour “short term” spots for visitors downtown.

“This is a great solution right now because it’s free,” Goelzer said. “Also, why take a chance on getting a ticket (in a two hour spot).”

What’s left now, Akervik said, is to make sure the public is aware of these parking options. For example, the Farwell ramp has been underutilized for the past 30 years and still says “civic center” on the outside. The assumption most people make is that it’s unavailable, Akervik said.

To battle that assumption, the parking committee recommends the City of Eau Claire devote $15,000 worth of new signage and electrical work for the Farwell St. parking ramp. The hope is to draw attention to the ramp as an open place to park, Akervik said.

Also on the committee’s agenda is a proposal for free parking after 5 p.m. in all downtown areas, instead of after 6 p.m. and increasing the cost of the Water St. parking lot meters from $.25 an hour to $.50. Both committee recommendations will go before the City Council in July, Akervik said. 

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