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Parking, parking, parking ... and it's free on weekends

Parking. Downtown. Together, those two words tend to bring out many emotions from customers, visitors, residents and employees. Sometimes they are thrilled that they were able to find an open parking spot right in front of their favorite store.

Let's admit it, most of us have circled the block to find that perfect spot, even though there was another open one just a block away. And then there are the customers who voice frustration that the downtown is busy and they can't find a spot on the street, or if they do find one, they have to pull out a pocket of quarters to plug the meter.

In this job, I have heard many suggestions, concerns, compliments and ideas about parking. And I appreciate them all. Typically, the parking experience is the first — and last — impression for someone visiting Duluth's Downtown Waterfront District, so it better be a good impression.

We have been pleased with the progress that has been made in recent years to move toward a more customer-friendly parking environment. Working in partnership with the City of Duluth, there have been numerous initiatives to improve on-street and off-street parking.

More parking options are coming online soon with the opening of the public parking ramps at the new Maurices headquarters and the Duluth Transportation Center. Plus, the City of Duluth has upgraded technology at the Medical District Ramp and Technology Village Ramp on First Street, as well as the Historic Arts and Theatre District (HART) Ramp on Superior Street. This makes parking and paying at a ramp even easier and allows you to avoid the concerns of overextending your stay at a parking meter. There are plenty of other privately owned ramps that also offer parking to the public and easy access.

For those of you coming downtown on the weekends, we do offer free on-street parking. So if you find that ideal spot in front of your favorite store on a Saturday or Sunday, it's also free. Just remember, time limits are enforced. This is a fair and just way to offer free parking as it also ensures turnover. If we offer free parking, we certainly don't want it to be free only to those who get there first in the morning. Turnover is a good thing, not only for our customers, but for our businesses as well. Expect to see additional signage this summer to remind you of the free parking and time limit enforcement.

As our central business district prepares for the reconstruction of Superior Street starting in 2017, it's even more important for our customers to feel comfortable and confident about visiting the downtown. There is a wide array of parking options and we hope you have a positive experience with all of the improvements. Please remember to support our local businesses and stay loyal to those businesses that are so loyal to our community.

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549 or kstokes@downtownduluth.com.

Kristi Stokes

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549.

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