GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Parking in East Hills and Eastown just got pricier.
Hundreds of pay stations were installed over the summer, and as of 8 a.m. Monday morning they are now all officially activated. Mobile GR's Director Josh Naramore said the pay stations are a part of a shift to license-based parking as opposed to space-based to allow for more vehicles to park.
The city waited until after ArtPrize to activate pay stations along Wealthy and Cherry Streets, where street parking has always been free. The pay stations along Wealthy Street span from Division Avenue to Fuller Avenue and along Cherry Street from Diamond Avenue to Eastern Avenue.
The pay stations operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and patrons can also still use MOTU to park. Parking costs $1.50 per hour, and most of the on-street parking has a 2-hour limit. Naramore said the city is currently discussing policies that would allow them to distribute some additional parking revenue to area business associations.
"The demand has increased for parking availability and it has created lots of issues," Naramore said. "So, the reason for meter parking is not to raise money, we are meter parking to make sure there's always a portion of it available to support the businesses."
Three neighborhood lots in the area are also converting to paid parking including the Barth Avenue lot, Wealthy St./Charles Avenue lot and the Henry/Charles Avenue lot.
Naramore said this project had been on the books for 6 or 7 years, but it had never come to fruition until now. He says the goal is to increase turnover on streets where there are long stretches of businesses.
But, business owners in the area have differing feelings on the new paid parking.
Mallory Squibb the owner of Squibb Coffee and Wine Bar said that there was never a problem with turnover.
"It’s already hard owning a small business, don’t make it harder for me and then act like you’re doing me a favor" Squibb said.
She said customers have already complained about the inconvenience especially when they are just dropping in to pick up a coffee.
Mark Tobin, co-owns Hopscotch Children's Store on Cherry Street and said he expected paid parking to make its way to their area eventually.
"We’re ok with it -- we will see what happens, but we are just kinda rolling with it and seeing how it goes," Tobin said.
Tobin said they are at an advantage because they don't have employees who also require parking spots.
Residents in the area are concerned that the paid parking is going to push people into neighborhood streets where they can park for free. Naramore said to combat that the city is discussing the possibility of residential parking zones, which would cost residents up to $30 a year to reserve parking on the street.
The proposed residential permit zones include: Wealthy Street (Eureka Avenue to Eastern Avenue), Broadway Avenue (Mid-block to First Street), Alabama Street (Mid-block to Second Street).
A resident in the area said parking has always been bad along these streets and does not think meter parking was the right solution.
"I expect these new meters to make things worse, especially once the snow restrictions go into effect," said Chris Singel, who lives off Cherry Street.
The city commission will hold a public hearing on the possible residential zones on Tuesday, October 23.
Anyone who cannot attend the meeting or would like to provide feedback ahead of time can do so by phone at 616-456-3290 or by email.
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