Does Downtown Rochester Really Need Parking Structures?

DDA Members Meet to Discuss the Parking Strategy in Rochester - photo by Michael Dwyer

DDA Members Meet to Discuss the Parking Strategy in Rochester – photo by Michael Dwyer

Downtown Rochester Parking

Rochester Media has been following the parking issues in Rochester since the McKenna Associates community planning and design consultants used a city survey to offer a complete parking strategy for the downtown area. The strategy cost the city $27,500 and it was delivered to the city in April of 2013. Over 900 online surveys were submitted. Some key results are:

  • 82% of respondents listed “Restaurants/Bars” as the primary reason for visiting downtown
  • 56% of respondents indicated they typically park in lots; 25% indicated on-street
  • 50% of respondents typically park 1 to 2 hours; 30% indicated 2 to 4 hours; 11% less than 1 hour
  • 61.5% of respondents listed parking as “Easy” to “Somewhat Easy”; 33.5% as “Somewhat Difficult”; 5% listed parking as “Difficult”
  • 62% of respondents indicated they are willing to pay to park close to their destination
  • 78% of respondents indicated they would park in a parking structure if one were available

Main Street Meters the First Step

During the Main Street Makeover, older meters were removed and parking became free for a short time on Main Street. Business owners noted that downtown employees were snagging many of the good spots. In the middle of winter, 300 new meters were installed.

The new meters are solar-powered and the new rate is $1.00 per hour (up from twenty-five cents) with a three-hour limit. Previously, metered parking was from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Now, visitors will are required to pay to park from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. those same six days. Sundays are still free and with the higher rate meters, parking on Main Street is available again. Meters take coins and credit cards.

City Manager, Jaymes Vettraino, Reviews the Parking Plan in Downtown Rochester - photo by Michael Dwyer

City Manager, Jaymes Vettraino, Reviews the Parking Plan in Downtown Rochester – photo by Michael Dwyer

Why Stop There?

The parking strategy concluded that Downtown Rochester has enough parking for everyone. However, there are “hot spots” that make it difficult to find spaces, such as the west side behind Mr. B’s; and the parking system has a financial burden in its current form on the city. City Manager, Jaymes Vettraino, said the city has “enough parking spaces for the businesses we have,” however, “not in the right places.” It’s been argued by a few local business owners that enforcement of time limits would control the issue and the parking situation would be fixed at that point.

More metered parking and at least two parking structures is how the city plans to go. Off-street parking will also be metered. Instead of time limits changing to accommodate demand, tiered prices with meters will offer a solution. With Main Street at $1.00 per hour, off-street lots will be priced from fifty to seventy-five cents per hour.

The Parking Platforms

Five lots were studied, but it was narrowed down to two locations. The parking structures are planned to go in next year. While some debate suggested one would go in this year, both will probably happen in 2015 because of a utility pole issue preventing the work starting this year. The working plan is to install the east platform first. The Main Street Plaza platform will be located between University and Fourth Street, in the existing parking lot. This structure will offer two platforms on top one another. The idea is the top layer could be used for events while keeping the bottom layer open for parking. Estimated to cost $5 million, it will take five months to complete.

The second structure will be three layers and will be built in seven months. This will be the west platform, estimated at $7 million, behind Mr. B’s. The plan is to offer free parking in the structures for the first two hours with a dollar-an-hour after that. The platforms will be automated. It is uncertain whether the structures will be built at the same time or back-to-back. At the same time would stress the parking system. However, back-to-back would take the construction into the 2015 holiday season.

Local Business Owners Brainstorm Ideas for the Parking Platforms - photo by Michael Dwyer

Local Business Owners Brainstorm Ideas for the Parking Platforms – photo by Michael Dwyer

Brainstorming at the DDA Meeting

Downtown Development Authority (DDA) members met last Wednesday to review the parking strategy and to brainstorm the next steps. The business owners feel the parking structures will ultimately be good for the city, but were concerned about the loss of revenue during the construction.

Security cameras, shuttle buses during the construction, and monthly parking passes were a few of the topics being discussed. Another concern businesses have is the Special Assessment District and the fee associated with it. Average retail shops will pay $400-$500 annually for up to three years. The city and DDA will also help fund the plan. $12 million in bonds will fund the structures. The plan is to reach a point in which the parking meters and platforms generate revenue to pay for the maintenance of the system.

“The ultimate goal of the final pricing and parking system funding strategy should be the creation of a break even parking program that generates sufficient revenues to cover operational costs, but that also generates sufficient reserves to cover the cost of future capital improvements,” stated the McKenna summary.

About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at

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