No More Free Parking on Main Street

Free parking on Main Street will soon be over

Two Employees of Future Fence remove snow for the new parking meter posts to go in - photo by Michael Dwyer

Two Employees of Future Fence remove snow for the new parking meter posts to go in – photo by Michael Dwyer

The Main Street Makeover eliminated the parking meters on Main Street and free parking has been the status quo for over a year. Visitors to the downtown area noticed that employees and business owners were snagging the good on-street parking for themselves. That has ended.

By the end of the month, 300 meters covering the on-street parking in downtown Rochester will be ready to take your coins, as well as your credit cards. The old meters took coins only, at a rate of .25 per hour. The new meters will be solar-powered and the new rate will be $1.00 per hour. Also new are the times the metered parking is in effect. Previously, metered parking was from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Now, visitors will be required to pay to park from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. those same six days. Sundays will still be free.

One of the new posts to hold the new parking meters in Downtown Rochester - photo by Michael Dwyer

One of the new posts to hold the new parking meters in Downtown Rochester – photo by Michael Dwyer

Parking Management District

Off-street parking also has its issues. The Rochester City Council voted yes on a broad based policy on Monday evening. “My ‘yes’ vote … was a commitment to building Rochester’s parking infrastructure in our central business district to support its current strength and future growth. Rochester must continue to move forward and invest in our future,” said Rochester Mayor Jeffrey T. Cuthbertson.

The plan calls for a parking management system of all the off-street parking lots within the Parking Management District. The “district” is roughly from the south bridge to the north bridge and from Water Street to Pine Street. The public lots will be managed with different price tiers based on proximity to the downtown area. Some lots will be metered and others will be free.

Parking Platforms are Next

Over the next 18 months or so, the city will be looking at designs, taking bids, and contracting out the construction of two platform-parking decks. One behind Mr. B’s on the west side (University and Fourth) and the second one behind the Main Street Plaza on the east side (University and Fourth). These two platform parking lots will hold 763 spaces, adding a net gain of 527 parking spaces to the downtown.

Mr. B's Parking Lot - Artist Rendering

Mr. B’s Parking Lot – Artist Rendering

One controversial part of the plan calls for a special assessment within the Parking Management District on business owners. To offset the cost of the project, an average retail shop will pay $400-$500 annually for three years.

Mayor Pro Tem, Stuart Bikson, of the Rochester City Council Said “I could not vote for it.” Bikson was one of two “no” votes Monday evening. While he is “for the parking,” he takes issue with the Special Assessment District (SAD). “It’s a tax,” said Bikson, who offered council other ways to fund the project without adding the burden onto the businesses. His suggestions, such as pulling from the budget of the council or getting the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to pay it will not be the way the project is funded.

Main Street Plaza Parking Lot - Artist Rendering

Main Street Plaza Parking Lot – Artist Rendering

“City Council will be taking several actions” along the way, said City Manager Jaymes Vettraino. While the policy is a done deal, public hearing and legislation will also tweak the project as it moves forward.

Read Rochester Media’s initial report on Parking in Downtown Rochester.

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


  1. David Gifford says

    I am divided on the two-story parking deck behind Mr. B’s. On one hand, they have one of the best outdoor bars in Rochester with a great view of the sunset. Add a parking garage and you will obstruct that view. On the other hand, that lot is always packed and more parking is needed.

  2. Scot Beaton says

    $12 million For Parking Garages In Rochester… Why?

    Recently I read this comment … “with Rochester residents on the hook for $12 million+ for needed parking platforms” … and I have heard rumors that Rochester would like to build a couple of 3 story Parking Garages; one on the east side of Downtown behind Hepplewhite Interiors and one on the west side of Downtown behind Mr. B’s.

    So being… I like to read up on urban planning issues, I thought I would do some research. I’m a homeowner over 29 years and live less than one mile from Downtown. So the first place I went was the City of Rochester website… sorry to say couldn’t find any plans to look at. 🙁 A 3 story Parking Garage behind Mr. B’s. would be quite a large building and put their 2 floor restaurant deck in the dark around 6:00 PM no more pretty sunsets from that restaurant… this is starting to sound like a bad idea! I thought only Rochester Hills had bad ideas like building oil wells and water tanks … LOL So is this all just a bunch of bad rumors?

    Well I did more research … BINGO … I found this PDF to read all 163 pages! Rochester Parking Analysis, March 2013, Planning Consultant, McKenna Associates, Community Planning & Design, 235 East Main Street, Suite 105, Northville, Michigan 48167 McKenna Associates.

    Let’s start off with the good news … During my Rochester Hills City Council years we also worked with McKenna Associates … still to this day they write and rewrite our master plan and have always provided outstanding service for our community. Also I like where they come from Northville, Michigan .. which in my opinion is the most charming city in Southeast Michigan! We need to bring some Northville ideas to Rochester … I don’t know about you folks I’m sick in tired of hearing we want to be the next Birmingham or Royal Oak. Take a drive to Northville if you want to see an upscale small town … Over the years unlike Rochester they protected their residential character by not turning all the homes driving into town on cheap looking office buildings.

    Sorry … getting off the subject. McKenna Associates … 163 pages … as I remember they cost about $100.00 a page for service. So in 2013 the City of Rochester spent $16,300+ on a parking study … please don’t quote me probably a lot more … just didn’t have time to go through the city budget. Lets start with page #1 last time City of Rochester did parking study was in 2003. What a great racket $16,300+ grand parking studies every 10 years … LOL Page #33 throwing this page in just for fun. Online Customer Survey “Over 900 online surveys were completed. A summary report from the online customer survey is included in Exhibit D, including all comments to the open-ended question. Some key results include: 82% of respondents listed “Restaurants/Bars” as the primary reason for visiting downtown.” McKenna Associates Maybe City of Rochester new theme line “where you live” should have been “where you consume expensive calories and get drunk.” Just a thought. haha

    Page #49 MOST IMPORTANT PARAGRAPH IN THE ENTIRE STUDY … Surface Parking Lots … “Surface parking lots are not the highest and best use of prime downtown real estate. Considering the relatively large amount of land area currently being devoted to surface parking in downtown Rochester, the creation of additional surface parking should only be pursued with great caution. Other than the potential acquisition of strategically located existing private lots such as the Chase Bank lot, and the Chase drive-thru property – McKenna recommends that no new surface lots be constructed in the downtown area. If future parking capacity is needed, it should be developed in the form of structured parking.” McKenna Associates

    Page #53 SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PARAGRAPH IN THE ENTIRE STUDY … Structured Parking … Based upon the results of our analysis it is reasonable to assume that any type of additional parking capacity to be developed in the downtown area will need to be in the form of structured parking. However, considering the overall scale of downtown Rochester and the level and types of anticipated new development, McKenna does not necessarily envision the need to build a large, multi-story parking structure. Instead, it may make more sense for Rochester to follow the Northville model by constructing single-level parking platforms over one or more of the existing public lots. This type of low-level parking structure tends to be easier to use and more acceptable for customers and visitors. By eliminating the need for internal ramping systems and elevators, single platform parking structures also cost much less to construct and maintain than larger conventional parking structures.” McKenna Associates

    So I hope the City of Rochester pays attention to its own study … listens to McKenna Associates; and not build 3 story Parking Garages! But single level parking decks over existing parking lots.

    I also have a few urban planning type suggestions. What I fear in today’s over focus group architectural design standards … because we all hate the ‘look’ of Parking Garages, we have tried to disguise them to look like building without windows just big holes … and what we have created is a lot of awful looking buildings let’s hope the city planners of Rochester are not dumb enough to jump on that bandwagon. Inside these fake looking buildings it gets kind of dark and creepy … women don’t like them … why? One major point McKenna Associates forgot. RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occured within 1 mile of their home or at their home. 1 in 12 take place in a parking garage. So we need to embrace Parking Decks for what they are and keep the design light and airy. Glass stairwells easely to see from the street. Security Cameras through the Parking Deck with an 24 hour online internet connection so we can watch our loved ones walk to their cars from our smart phones. We need to make them “green” NO not the color green but cut big holes in them to let the sunlight in, and plant trees in these holes … so over time they can grow up through the Parking Deck. We need to strategically place second floor planter boxes on them so leafy green vines can be planted to hang of the edges. And finally I would argue for a taller second floor deck so we don’t feel claustrophobic on the first floor. Somerset Mall Parking Structure in Troy has high ceilings … the added bonus to this idea is we could build pedestrian bridges on the second floor of the Parking Decks to the second floor of our buildings on Main Street and still drive 18 wheelers down on the alleys to make deliveries.

    I was really impressed with the community response parking study … Q10 “Would you consider parking in a parking structure if available?” was a little weird, kinda loaded … to try to sell parking structures. 78.04% yes 21.96% no. Weasel words like “consider” anyone can consider … McKenna Associates I forgive you just this one time. That kind of question reminds me of Mayor Bryan Barnett loaded survey. But I was incredibly impressed to the response to this question Q1. “If you have any suggestions or ideas to improve parking in downtown Rochester, please write them in the space below. Thank you for your participation!” 351 answers, WOW I read them all a lot of great ideas. One small urban planning note: The parallel parking on Main street is there for a very important reason. 70% of the folks that drive through your town are commuters; and they don’t give a damn about your town and its charm, they just want to go to work or go home. Take away those cars who slow down the traffic trying to park … that create a physical barrier between you and the commuters … ? Traffic speeds and noise will increase destroying the charm of those sidewalks. And that charm exists today because there is a car between you and that commuter that does not give a damn about you.

  3. Scot Beaton says

    Within two days after sending my comments to the Patch and Rochester Media, that I also forward to all members of the Rochester City Council… Jeffrey Cuthbertson, Cathy Daldin went through great lengths to answer my concerns … and they both continue to show how important public service is, and the residents of the City of Rochester should be proud to have them represent them. I’m not allowed to reprint what they wrote me, but I do feel obligated to print what I wrote them. And I would hope the Patch and Rochester Media would do an update article on the parking concerns of Downtown Rochester.

    Jeffrey Cuthbertson, Cathy Daldin:

    Thank you for your incredible quick response! I have a major personality flaw … this will forever prevent me from getting back into politics … and I do have many nights were I lose hours and hours of sleep over the destruction of community: it’s historical character, building unnecessary strip malls, five lane highways, etc. plus I personally get quite depressed over these issues … maybe I should check into some kind of therapy. My major personality flaw is I have no filter, and when I read some of my comments for a second and third time I truly hate myself, and I truly apologize for my unfiltered outburst. For the past 30+ years I have come to realise with myself urban planning is an emotional issue. The City of Rochester is a great city with a great City Council; I continue to wish we had that kind of leadership in Rochester Hills.

    Now that you know now where I’m coming from … I apologize for getting so late in the discussion of Parking Garages. I do spend everyday about 2 hours reading blogs, online newspapers etc. on urban planning and architecture, and I was born with creative genes, have won a few awards in advertising CLIO show in New York. Enough said, your study is flawed, McKenna Associates is a great firm … but you need to think of Downtown Rochester as two levels. I read up on this all the time … some towns have even gone to the point of actually having two levels of assessment value. You need to think of selling air rights to. A perfect example would be one block south of Mr. B’s, building a single level deck over Chase bank. You need to think of easy access two second level buildings with pederation bridges from second level decks, this will dramatically increase the value of the buildings on Main Street! It is so worth in the long hall and extra 5 million in up front dollars. Please STOP slow down and consider what I’m proposing. These ideas I sent you are not mine they come from what I read.

    I did see color renderings on the Rochester Media website … You probably know this already … these kinds of attractive parking garages literally ‘come in a box’ predesigned easily installed on any flat existing lot … there are great inexpensive firms out there that do nothing but build these kinds of attractive parking garages you voted on for a living. Thanks for not making them not look like fake buildings. Please also consider security cameras, but putting them online, that was my idea, and it is a very bad idea. What a great way for perverts to stalk our residents … I forgot to think about the consequences of that bad idea of mine. But please make the live video available to the Rochester Police Department and available in their cars … would save time having to drive into the parking garage (our at least make fewer trips) they could just view their laptops as they drove by. And please make the staircase as transparent as possible from the streets. Women don’t like Parking Garages but they do like to shop … and they are a far more important demographic to the future of Downtown Rochester then men.

    Jeffrey Cuthbertson, Cathy Daldin: Thank you for time and please consider these ideas. Mr B’s major source of summer income are those beautiful sunsets from that dining deck, and quite possibly a two-level platform parking garage behind that restaurant, and loss of those sunsets will permanently kill the entire business; do you really want that on your conscience for the rest of your life, when a two-level platform parking garage on that block is also a bad idea to begin with.

    Scot Beaton

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