UPDATE: The parking proposal was passed on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Racine Common Council meeting.
To provide a boost to holiday season sales, the City of Racine is expected to declare a short-term parking meter holiday. Final approval is expected to come in the Common Council meeting next Tuesday.
The City has offered a parking meter holiday in past years. In 2016 it provided free meter parking on Saturdays in December. Last year it offered free parking through the Passport payment app. This initiative was not requested specifically by citizens, but will benefit those that don’t want the burden of keeping track of time when they’re shopping, said Alderman Jeff Coe.
“The promotion received positive feedback the last two years from merchants, residents and visitors,” said Kelly Kruse, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp.
Michelle Schimian, of RG Natural Babies, said the program is a good idea because “customers often lose track of time, leaving them with a bad taste in their mouths about their shopping experience” if they get a parking ticket.
However, she said didn’t notice an uptick in customers last year, blaming excessive snow throughout the month of December.
JoAnne Labre, owner of Dover Flag & Map, saisd she did not notice an increase in business for her shop last year during meter holidays. She doesn’t think much of the idea, however, saying it is mostly it’s being used by business owners and employees take advantage of the chance to take up a parking space all day.
A ‘critical’ retail season
“The holiday season is critical for merchants,” Kruse noted. “Normally, meter parking is an efficient way to provide short-term parking for customers and encourage the use of parking ramps for all-day parking.
“The holiday season, however, provides a wonderful opportunity to be as welcoming to as many people as we can. New or occasional visitors might not be familiar with paying for parking or the location of the ramps. Parking in ramps will still be available for reasonable rates.”
According to a spokesman for the City, Racine will give up approximately $14,200 in parking meter revenue during the free days.
Proposed dates for the parking meter holiday are: Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24. All four Saturdays in December are included, as is Christmas Eve.
Kruse noted the Christmas shopping season is an ideal opportunity for people who had not shopped downtown for some time to revisit the shops, many of them new. “It’s a nice opportunity to give something back to the businesses and their customers,” she said. “When we’re able to get a resident to explore and shop in downtown for the first time in months or years, it is a win/win.
“With 20 new businesses that have opened up in 2018, it’s a chance for shoppers to see the many building improvements and check out the new shops and restaurants.”