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Park Cedar Rapids works to recover from significant revenue loss during pandemic

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Park Cedar Rapids is working to recover from a big revenue hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, which runs the downtown parking system including monthly permits, on-street meters and garages, says fewer people working downtown meant fewer people paying to park.

Beth Hall and her husband told us they walk 6 blocks to work in downtown Cedar Rapids to save money while simultaneously getting some exercise.

“We park under the interstate, we call it covered parking because we pay about $25 per car and it’s just a lot cheaper,” Hall said.

But many businesses and people who work downtown pay for monthly parking permits close by, and people who go downtown for entertainment pay to park, too. The pandemic threw a wrench in those habits, directly impacting Park Cedar Rapids.

“We had to, you know, unfortunately, furlough some people during this time,” Park Cedar Rapids General Manager Jon Rouse told KCRG-TV9.

The company estimates it lost between $3.2 and $3.4 million in revenue because of the pandemic. Park Cedar Rapids went from an all-time high of 50 employees down to an all-time low of 14. Lately, they’ve been able to hire a handful of people back, but there is still a ways to go.

“Prior to the pandemic uprooting life for everybody, we had a parking problem down here in terms of capacity,” said Jesse Thoeming, Executive Director of the Downtown District at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

Thoeming said, pre-pandemic, they were talking about adding 4-500 parking spaces because downtown parking was at 90% capacity.

“Well then you know the world changes in March 2020 and those numbers go from 90% to under 20%,” Thoeming explained.

Rouse is hopeful businesses returning to work downtown will help.

“You know that’s kind of what I consider our bread and butter those monthly parkers, those folks that are coming down here every single day,” Rouse said.

Leaders believe events this summer, like the farmer’s market returning in-person, should help too. The markets draw an average of 14,000 people to downtown Cedar Rapids on a given Saturday. While parking, in general, is free on weekends, Park Cedar Rapids says the markets benefit them because they bring a lot of people downtown who may stay for other events, potentially leading them to pay for event parking.

Overall, Rouse said things are looking up.

“We’re anticipating that you know June and July are going to be better than April and May,” he said.

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