Shoppers might get free holiday parking downtown
By Catherine Lackner
To lure holiday shoppers downtown, the board of Miami's Downtown Development Authority last week endorsed a plan to offer free parking for two hours Saturdays and all day Sundays from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30.
The idea still must win approval of the Miami City Commission, which can direct the Miami Parking Authority (MPA) to suspend fees for those intervals in its garages and surface lots downtown.
"When we talk to people about shopping downtown, their
biggest complaint is parking," said Joe Sanchez, city commissioner and downtown
"We're competing with shopping malls and with Miami Midtown for those shoppers."
"Why limit it to two hours on Saturday?" asked authority board member Loretta Cockrum.
In Savannah, GA, a city she often visits, downtown parking is free all weekend. "In Savannah, they depend on tourism and shopping revenues downtown. Why can't we do this, too? I think it's critical that we offer free parking."
Board member Jose Goyanes reminded the group that in Coral Gables, parking is free on
Free parking "shows we're welcoming the shoppers," said authority board member Neisen Kasdin.
"Trust me; there will be opposition to this when we go to the City Commission," Mr. Sanchez said. "But right now, we're losing to the malls."
"The MPA will lose some revenue on those dates," concedes the resolution proposing the free parking dates, "but can make up that revenue and more from future increased weekend parking usage when residents and visitors discover the diverse offerings of downtown's shops, restaurants, services, arts and culture."
The proposal may go on the City Commission agenda as early as Nov. 8. If it's approved, "it needs to be advertised," Mr. Goyanes said.
He suggested the development authority and the Downtown Miami Partnership — a non-profit, community-based organization representing downtown property owners and residents — post signs, banners and other notices to make shoppers aware of the parking perk.
"The DDA needs to promote this to the merchants," Mr. Sanchez said. "I'm sure they'll be receptive."