Springfield officials looking at future of paid parking in downtown

Parking in the City of Springfield's new parking garage is free thru 2021. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Parking in the City of Springfield's new parking garage is free thru 2021. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Officials with the city of Springfield are looking at the future of paid parking in the downtown area as the coronavirus pandemic has altered previous plans.

Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the type of services provided by businesses in downtown as well as shape how area employers view remote work.

He said that will have an impact on parking trends after the pandemic and will dictate what actions will be taken by the city to better coordinate parking.

Springfield businesses have had to adapt to the pandemic with some having employees working remotely, while others have had to tweak services and operations.

“We will continue to see that flexibility and adaptation even beyond having the virus under control,” Heck said.

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Prior to the pandemic, an increase in activity in the downtown area prompted calls for a more coordinated parking system. That included incorporating a newly constructed three-story parking garage on Fountain Avenue into a larger strategy that would include metered parking on city streets as well as converting parking lots to paid ones.

However, the economic impact of the pandemic has put a hiatus on those plans. The downtown parking garage that opened in May, originally intended to be a paid structure, has been free to the public since the fall. It is intended to stay that way through 2021.

The city has also delayed purchasing parking meters and other equipment intended to convert other downtown parking spaces to paid ones.

In addition, Springfield City Commissioners will be asked to vote early next month on the authorization of renewing a parking management agreement with Republic Parking System, LLC.

The company entered into an agreement with the city last year to provide services such as managing the new parking garage as well as aid the city in efforts to better coordinate its parking system.

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Paul Hicks, the emergency services manager for the City of Springfield, said that the city paid $77,500 during the first contract period. He said that also included start up costs.

The renewal agreement will also be for one-year and it will include $85,000 to be paid for services related to maintenance and operations of the garage on Fountain. The agreement all together calls for spending not to exceed $220,000.

Heck said the remaining money, besides the $85,000, would be used to purchase equipment if the city decides to add paid meter parking or paid public lots in the near future.

Discussions last year aimed to bring public parking lots, parking garages as well as on street spaces into continuity and coordinated in a manner that it all works together.

Heck said the city is keeping its options open but it is still unclear what parking will look like. He added that the city will continue to evaluate the situation.

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