Free parking in Roanoke is becoming harder to come by, as the city installs new equipment in parking garages that’ll take away free parking at night and on the weekends.
While Park Roanoke says it doesn’t anticipate impact on surrounding businesses, some business owners disagree.
A Park Roanoke spokeswoman says the company needed to replace outdated equipment, and that the new technology will allow for 24/7 operation.
The sign outside Center in the Square garage in Roanoke shows parking hours that were – until three weeks ago – standard for downtown.
Park Roanoke has since upgraded the gates at Church Avenue garage, Gainsboro garage, and Campbell garage, calling the old equipment ‘no longer serviceable’ but adding ‘the new automated technology allows for 24/7 operations.’
“A little upsetting. Because we’re down here every day, as merchants, and we expect to get a certain amount of people – local people – to come downtown,” said Pauline Wood, the owner of Shades of Color in downtown Roanoke.
Wood is afraid would-be customers won’t bother paying parking fees, especially when they’re shopping for inexpensive items.
Park Roanoke says, “The added operating hours for the recently upgraded garages are considered primarily off peak. We do not anticipate any impact on the surrounding businesses.”
“We’re not going to get the customers down here that we used to. This is going to cause a lot of businesses to probably leave the market area,” she said.
Downtown Roanoke offers a number of free parking spaces – as well as monthly rates for garages – but wood says it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
She says she’s already seen a hit to business.
“Not only have I seen the effect, I’ve seen people talking about it and people discussing it – how hard it is to for them to come down here and find a regular parking space,” she said.
Park Roanoke says there will be floating ambassadors and a push-button-assistance feature on new equipment, so upgraded garages won’t have to each be manned.
She adds – the extra money raised will essentially go back into the system, helping pay for operating expenses and ongoing repairs.