CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — For years, finding parking for employees in downtown Cedar Rapids was always one of the biggest hurdles to landing new businesses. But since the flood of 2008, more parking has popped up in the downtown area. And the number of potential parking locations officially increased again on Tuesday.
Members of Park Cedar Rapids and city leaders celebrated the opening of the South Side Ramp, 600 Second St S.E. It’s located next to the new federal courthouse and when combined with another Parkade that opened late last year, the city has added more than 1,100 parking spaces to the downtown area both for downtown workers and transient parkers.
The facility dedicated on Tuesday cost about $13 million. Something that large, and expensive, usually draws some attention. But even economic development leaders downtown acknowledge few people get excited about a parking garage. But for property managers or commercial realtors looking to fill empty business spaces downtown, parking does matter — and it matters a lot.
Steve Dummermuth, a downtown property manager, said “the first question (from business owners) is always whether or not the parking capacity is there and like I say a lot of times you just have to show them it is there.”
Doug Neumann, executive vice president with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, said a number of businesses left downtown after the 2008 flooding. So that reduced some of the downtown parking pressure for a time.
But economic developers knew as the jobs, and workers, returned downtown parking availability would again become an issue. Neumann said that’s why the rebuilding effort downtown in recent years included a push for more parking spaces.
Park Cedar Rapids, the downtown parking system operator, has approximately 4,000 on-street spaces and another 4,000 off-street in ramps or surface lots.
Neumann said based on demand, that’s enough for now.
“It fills the need for today and the near-term future. Certainly, if we’re wildly successful, and I hope we are, we’ll have to add capacity. But for today there’s capacity and we’re making real strides in the upkeep of the facilities,” Neumann said.
Neumann said one remaining parking issue now may be perception. Those who don’t work downtown, or visit often, may still feel there’s no room to park.
Parking system managers have a challenge for those skeptics: come downtown and see for yourself.
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