City built it, but will they come park?

Group hopes to coax drivers into using downtown garage

The oft-empty parking garage, downtown Grand Junction.

Nearly two-and-a-half years after the Rood Avenue Parking Garage between Fourth and Fifth streets opened to downtown customers and employees, many drivers continue to resist switching from on-street parking.

Just 8 percent of the 126 public spaces on the first level of the garage were occupied in the first quarter of 2010. That’s down from 14 percent occupancy in the first quarter of 2009, according to the city of Grand Junction. Vacancy remains at 92 percent this month on the first level.

The Downtown Development Authority posted four large blue-and-white circles with the letter P inside them on each side of the garage earlier this year in an effort to attract people to the park there. DDA Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham said the signs were purchased for less than $10,000 and installed after she heard some people didn’t realize the structure was a parking garage because it fits in with other architecture downtown.

“Some people expected it to look more industrial,” Ham said.

Ham said she believes more people have noticed the garage since the signs went up. She also hopes offering free parking tokens to people that shopped in the 300 block of Main Street during Downtown Uplift construction this year gave the garage some customers.

“I hope that some of the people that tried it because they had a token became fans,” Ham said.

All public spaces are located on the first floor of the garage. It costs 50 cents an hour to park from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the meters are enforced from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Spaces leased by the city of Grand Junction on upper levels of the garage are seeing more use. Covered spaces in the garage, leased by the city of Grand Junction for $60 a month, currently are 91 percent full. Ninety-nine percent of the garage’s uncovered spaces, leased by the city for $10 a month, are occupied, but some of those spots will open soon because they’re being used by construction workers working on the Downtown Uplift project, which is nearly finished.

A $20 reduction this year in the price to lease an uncovered space may have drawn some drivers from the public spaces to leased spaces, City Financial Services Manager Jodi Romero said. Romero said she also suspects a cold winter could have affected public parking occupancy in the garage this January through March.

The city of Grand Junction, Downtown Development Authority and Alpine Bank invested $7.8 million to build the structure.


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