Downtown parking: what’s really needed?

Community Resource Bank parking lot Community Resource Bank parking lot NDDC Guide to Parking in Downtown Northfield
With the departure of Community Resource Bank from its downtown location, there’s now an empty parking lot in the heart of downtown—at least until the owner of the building, First National Bank of Northfield (across the street), leases the building.

Last week’s City Council work session discussion of the Streetscape Taskforce Recommendations (P. 15 of the packet) had this item on the list:

Purchase of property to address perceived needs of Downtown Parking issues and potentially assist with increased parking need by future Library project.

The NDDC provides a Guide to Parking in Downtown Northfield. Ross has blogged about parking issues for years (example, here). There have been several studies of downtown parking (eg. the Walker Study, the Stolley Report, others? links?).

Here are some low-hanging fruit questions of an uninformed blogger:

  • How often are the diagonal and parallel parking spots on Division completely full?
  • Do downtown business owners and their employees too often park in these spots or is that a myth?
  • How rigorously do the police enforce downtown parking ordinances?
  • What do we know that has worked and not worked in other downtowns of our size/type?

Regardless of the strange wording (“perceived needs of Downtown Parking issues” – do issues have needs?) and regardless of what happens with the Library expansion, downtown parking is an issue that should be fun to argue about.

In the meantime, the now-empty Community Resource Bank parking lot is a perfect spot for a temporary skateboard plaza!


  1. David Koenig said:

    Griff, just before I joined the City Council in 1999, I had discussions with the owner of the building between the Grand and the City parking lot on Washington about a way the City might be able to acquire his property. The idea was that when the time was right, the city could demolish that house and put a multi-level parking structure to serve downtown, the Grand and the Library, using the first level area facing Washington for possible retail (ala the parking garage in St. Paul near Cafe Latte).

    For various reasons, the City didn’t conclude this, although the owner was amenable. I think that there are new owners of the building on Washington who might be sympathetic to selling to the City for such a purpose.

    I can’t imagine a better spot downtown other than possibly making the larger City lot on Washington (between 4th and 5th) a multi-level structure. Still, with proximity to the Grand for events, the Library, the new Carleton Arts Center and downtown businesses…it seems perfect.

    June 30, 2010
  2. Jane McWilliams said:

    As a matter of fact, David, the council discussed just that property (at the suggestion of the Task Force). Someone mentioned the possibility of purchasing it and holding it until the library expansion happens.

    June 30, 2010
  3. Patrick Enders said:

    Was a price discussed?

    June 30, 2010
  4. Kiffi Summa said:

    Thanks to David Koenig for this bit of history; it would have been a tidy bit of planning to have acquired the building then for the near future need.

    David will recall the amount, but I am remembering an amount considerably less than the 760K that I think is the asking price today.
    It would be wise to find a way to purchase this property as it is the most reasonable and well located solution as David K has pointed out. Maybe on some sort of lower cost delayed/phased contract so that the owners can still be earning some income from its rental until the city can actually afford to build a parking lot.

    Consider Robert Burns’ advice to his lazy gardner: “Aye, ye’d do well to be plantin’ a tree today Jock. It’ll be growin’ while you are a-sleepin’!”

    June 30, 2010
  5. David Koenig said:

    Kiffi, the number was around $230,000 back then, I think. As you may recall, not many of my ideas were welcomed. But, Scott Neal was helpful with the discussion. It just didn’t go anywhere.

    Looking at the Rice County records, the assessors’ value is today at $375,000, although it was purchased in 2006 by Born to Run Enterprises for $500,000.

    June 30, 2010
  6. Patrick Enders said:

    That’s a tidy bit of profit in today’s real estate market!

    June 30, 2010
  7. Take the huge city lot at 5th and Washington. Perhaps purchase the buildings along fourth, just south of Washington.

    Build a five level parking structure on it, with the police station at street level. Build the first level high enough so that the police station has secured parking and storage. Pubic parking could be on levels two through five. A nice sally port could even be incorporated into the design.

    One one side, perhaps the Fifth street side, have space to park a bus, and a small room. This could be the base operations for Northfield Transit. Right next to it could be a welcome center.

    You could really make this block the focal point, and multi-use.

    June 30, 2010
  8. It pains me to say it, but I actually really agreed with Jon Denison’s comment on the purchase of that structure. At public expense, we’d be eliminating several units of affordable housing in the heart of our city to help address a “problem” that doesn’t seem all that severe.

    Northfield blocks are 400 feet — put another way, slightly less than the distance across the Target lot. With the exception of DJJD, there is always parking on Washington or Water. Walk the 400 feet.

    If a library expansion makes the purchase of that property necessary, sure. But just to expand the parking lots, it doesn’t seem worth the expense of money or housing units.

    June 30, 2010
  9. This animation also gives a sense of the progression of our downtown parking obsession. People drove in 1951 and 1964, too. But we didn’t dedicate nearly as much to off-street parking.

    June 30, 2010
  10. David Koenig said:

    Yes, Sean. That was one of the concerns back then too. We were looking at the building before the owner was to add an addition to it that created more ‘affordable’ housing downtown.

    One thought was to try to move the house to another lot downtown, preserving the availability. Or, to find some other way to avoid losing the five or six units in it.

    June 30, 2010
  11. Both the library lot and the 5th Street lot are often full, but equally there are a few places usually open, but not a lot. There is permit parking for downtown residents, and with businesses nearby, it is often full in mid-day, and I often thought about this when I had schedule options so as not to lose my parking place.

    Back when I lived above Jacobsen’s and had a parking permit and walked to work across that parking lot to the Nasby building, I expected a parking ramp was imminent (I also contemplated making roast duck out of those male mallards harassing that poor female in that lot). Maybe a low profile ramp doesn’t work with Nasby’s building and the Olson building (do they still own them?), but it seems adding a layer above, of course with solar panels, is overdue.

    And then there’s building a layer underground and another above the lot across from the library, level exit onto Division, and level entrance from Washington.

    Waiting has cost the City quite a bit, but the market crash can work in the City’s favor.

    July 1, 2010
  12. Patrick Enders said:

    I have never had a problem finding a parking spot downtown.

    July 1, 2010
  13. David Beimers said:

    Patrick – I had a problem last week around noon. The entire block on Division between 4th and 5th was full, 5th between division and water was full, Water was full, and Division from 4th to 2nd was full.

    It seems like the cars on Water rarely ever move during the day.

    July 1, 2010
  14. norman butler said:

    What think ye of Arthur White’s solution? (see his recent letter in the NNEWS).

    July 2, 2010
  15. I pick my times to go downtown. The handicap spots are few and far between…oh, i know a lot of you think not, but to an elderly person, a person with back problems,
    someone with a health situation that is not obvious to the eye, and believe me, there are a lot of broken bodies out here,including some who never even thinking about going downtown because of the parking, a half block is too far to walk, especially in the winter or hot summer day. So, stay home, you say, and we often do, but sometimes a nice look around for gift for friends and family or a new pair of shoes is worth the extra effort if we could just get close enough.
    Usually, I drive while dh pops in somewhere quickly to pick something up or drop something off, and I circle the area until he gets out. It’s alright, but it’s not the ideal. I would spend more downtown if I could go whenever I got the notion, but because by the time the congestion clears, I usually decide to go elsewhere.

    I’m not really for a big garage. I have seen too many of those in Chicago and a lot of people avoid them for various reasons…cost, crime, accidents, car scratches, elevator avoidance, etc.

    I imagine the cost of the maintenance is quite high these days, and the esthetics of the building prolly won’t fit well in that high visibility location if it goes too skyward.

    July 3, 2010
  16. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    I’ve only been following this issue since 2003, although my research took me back to 2001. I really appreciate David Koenig adding a couple of years to my history of this topic.

    As you note, the prominent pieces of analysis of downtown parking are the Walker Parking Consultants Study and the 2002 Downtown Parking Task Force Report, commonly called “The Stolley Report”. The Walker Group are paid consultants and the Stolley Group was, as I understand it, a collaboration between the Chamber, the City and the NDDC.

    The Walker Study focused on the Central Business District, bounded by 1st Street to the north, 8th Street to the south, Washington Street to the east and Linden Street to the west, an era containing roughly 20 blocks of a variety of uses and an “effective parking supply” of 2,534 spaces. The consultants stated that, for the district as a whole, there was an adequate parking supply. However, for the area bounded roughly by the Cannon River, 2nd Street, Washington Street, and 5th Street, they indicated that within 2 to 5 years, there would be an “aggregate parking shortage” of 169 spaces.

    Walker proposed 9 parking project alternatives for consideration. They prioritized and priced these projects, offering reasons for their prioritization. One of the top ranked projects was the so-called “Grand Lot”, which entailed “the creation of an extended surface lot between the Grand and 3rd Street, Washington Street and the north/south alley”. The consultants noted that a future, second level of parking could be added to this site.

    The Stolley Report was a response to the recommendations of the Walker Study. It noted that the Walker Study did not come up with a financial plan to pay for the improvements. The Stolley group then surveyed downtown business and property owners and concluded that there was limited ability to take on substantial debt to pay for a parking structure.

    More recent informal studies by Downtown Stakeholders have indicated that there are substantial parking shortages along the central spine of the Central Business District, Division Street, that shift south during the day. The 200 and 300 blocks are tight in the morning, the 300 and 400 blocks are tight during mid-day and the 400 and 500 blocks are tight during the dinner hours.

    These same Downtown Stakeholders point out that shoppers have less patience than downtown workers. If they can’t immediately find parking, they often leave and take their money someplace else. For those who suggest that a two- or three-block walk is shorter than the parking lot at the mall or that downtown shoppers can be trained to accept parking a few blocks from their desired destination, I raise the concern that downtown businesses would end up paying the price of these theoretical experiments or training sessions.

    I guess to summarize, it appears that there has some level of agreement for at least ten years between the private sector, the public sector, and the technical consultants that downtown needs more parking. It also appears that a number of groups have identified the corner of 3rd Street and Washington Street as a good choice for that additional parking.

    The obstacle to implementation has been a lack of money. I am not on the Streetscape Task Force and I have not been following their deliberations all that closely these past five years. However, it seems to me that they are recommending that we use some of the last of the Downtown TIF District money to address a problem and a project that have long been discussed.

    July 3, 2010
  17. Dan Bergeson said:

    Ross’s comment is a very clear and articulate summation of the history leading up to the Downtown Streetscape Task Force recommendation (I am a member of the Task Force). I would add just a couple of points of clarification. First, the Task Force was considering not only the history of anecdotal and actual observations of parking difficulties on the north end of downtown, but also the expansion plans of the Northfield Public Library Board and the reality of the 2011 opening of the Carleton College Arts Union, one block to the east of the intersection of Washington Street and Third Street. Second, the $760,000 figure listed in the Task Force recommendations to the City Council for the purchase of the rental property on Washington Street includes more than the projected purchase amount. It also includes dollars for the razing of the building and the site development of the property so that parking could be realized. It’s an estimate and not a negotiated figure. It’s a placeholder based on conversations and market assumptions. The actual amount disbursed could conceivably be lower.

    July 4, 2010
  18. Ross Currier said:

    As Dan points out, the cost figure in the Task Force recommendations to the City Council includes not only property acquisition, but demolition, site development, and the creation of additional parking spaces, landscaped, I assume, to the City’s current standards.

    My memory is imperfect but I think there are 36 spaces in the two existing parking lots and that the addition of (the relatively larger) new parcel would create 75 parking spaces, a substantial increase of available parking in a important location for downtown.

    I will note that the condition of at least one of the current parking lots is rather poor and that it will require some public investment in the very near future.

    July 6, 2010
  19. David Ludescher said:


    I think it is questionable whether people would use this lot for downtown shopping.

    July 6, 2010
  20. Kiffi Summa said:

    Thanks for that additional info , Dan… In my estimation the use of some of the DT Tif district funds for this acquisition would be very beneficial, as the cost compares very favorably with those that have been projected for adding a second floor on the ‘Jacobsen’ lot.

    Although SOME small percentage would be returned to the general fund by decertification of the downtown district, the majority of the future returns would be lost for those central projects.
    Might I say “throwing out the baby with the bath water” ?

    As this speculative lot would be ON-HALF block from Division street , I do not see that it would not be used. Everyone will not always be able to park directly in front of the store they are going to… but some seem to see that as the only reality.

    July 6, 2010
  21. David Koenig said:


    Ideally these back lots will be used by the following:

    1. Office workers and residents downtown
    2. Library visitors
    3. Special event attendees (The Grand, Carleton Arts Union)
    4. Coffee drinkers 🙂 using the back entrance to GBM

    All of these uses will free the prime parking in front of retail venues for more transactional, high turnover uses.

    To make this work, though, there does need to be consistent enforcement of parking rules on Division.

    July 6, 2010
  22. Patrick Enders said:

    $760,000 for a new downtown parking lot??

    Whether it’s TIF money or general funds, it’s still local tax dollars that could be better spent on maintaining schools and essential public services while trying to fill our _$2 billion_ deficit hole.

    Might be a heck of a lot cheaper to just get all the owners and workers to stop parking on Division.

    July 6, 2010
  23. Patrick Enders said:

    (million, not billion, obviously)

    July 6, 2010
  24. William Siemers said:


    Anecdotal evidence being what it is…I’ll add mine: Except in cases of special events (DJJD, Art Fairs, etc.), I’ve never had to park more than a block from where I was going. And the majority of the time I’ve found a space within a half a block.

    This seems like another project that can be easily postponed until we get our fiscal house in order.

    July 6, 2010
  25. norman butler said:

    As a downtown business owner and building owner, $760,000 spent om creating 75 new parking spaces close by the north end of Division Street is money well spent.

    It would also clean up and beautify the east side of that block (from the library to the Grand) much like the recent work done along Water Street and the bike trail behind Just Foods. At a later date the land could then be used for a library expansion and other uses including a parking ramp.

    These projects enhance the downtown, make it more attractive, and encourage locals and visitors to spend time and money in Northfield. In this way they – unlike other capital projects – deliver decent bang for the buck or a tangible and fairly immediate return on investment.

    However, whether we can afford to do them at this time is another question – as is whether or not we can afford not to do them.

    BTW in all these studies has any thought been given to expanding the library or – as I like to consider it – an Arts and Culture Center, to the north?

    July 8, 2010
  26. Norm —
    Despite my qualms about the house being removed, I do agree that it would be beneficial to put this valuable LIbrary-adjacent land in public hands. The $760 000, however, I understand to only cover the purchase of the house. The actual demolition of that house and reconstruction of the lots would be a separate, more costly, matter.

    Re: expanding the Library to the north. That’s been ruled out as an option. Short of disrupting Washington St, it would only make the building more awkward of a shape, and would not significantly add to its footprint.

    July 8, 2010
  27. John S. Thomas said:

    Something seems to be too obvious to me, and I am sure that this will be considered “Anti-business”, but I will put it out here anyway.

    The primary concerns of the existing downtown seem to be:
    1. Limited Parking.
    2. Vehicles not moving, remaining parked all day.
    3. Lack of funding to build additional parking.
    4. Lack of enforcement of existing parking rules.

    Everyone is going to scream at this, but I say: PARKING METERS.

    Add meters downtown, with 1 hour parking. Place extended parking and permit parking to the side lots. Add enforcement. Parking fees should be 6 AM to 6 PM daily. Say for instance 1 hour parking in most areas, and 30 minute parking in areas where more turnover needs to be generated.

    Fines and collected meter fees go into a SPECIFIC fund, not the general fund. Salary for one dedicated parking enforcement officer comes from this fund.

    We let this cook for several years, and invest the funds. In 3 years, we take funds from this fund, and match it with other funds (TIF maybe?) to facilitate additional parking downtown.

    This plan could be implemented, but there would be inital costs to establish it by the city, that could be recouped from the meter fund. City loans the parking fund the moneys to establish the meters, and is repaid in 3 yearly payments of 1/3 the cost. The system should be self-sufficent by that time.

    Just an idea… one that I have not seen presented yet.

    July 8, 2010
  28. John S. Thomas said:

    Lets play fun with numbers…

    According to the info above, there are 2,534 spaces downtown.
    Lets say we convert 50% of them to metered parking.

    Parking Spaces 2,534
    Percent to Meters 50%
    # of metered Spaces 1,267

    That gives us 1,267 metered spaces.

    We implement parking 12 hours per day, and assume that we get 50% utilization of those spaces.

    Hours per day of Metered Parking: 12
    Total number of Metered Space Hours per day: 15,204
    Days per Week of Metered Parking 6
    Metered Spaces Per Week 91,224
    Weeks Per Year 52
    Metered Spaces Per Year 4,743,648
    Percentage utilization 50%
    Used Spaces (parkers) Per Year 2,371,824
    Fee Per Hour $0.50

    Revenue Per Year $1,185,912.00

    Using a conservative model, implementing meters downtown could generate 1.2 million dollars in revenue.

    We could do this until enough is made to get additional parking built downtown, then remove them.

    Again, there are expenses involved, and a lot of fuzzy math here, and a lot of hidden assumptions, etc. But it is an idea.


    July 8, 2010
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    Glad you brought up meters, John.

    Ross/Dan, were meters addressed in any of the formal reports?

    July 8, 2010
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    Ross, you cite “More recent informal studies by Downtown Stakeholders.” Can we get a copy of those?

    And can we get PDFs of the Walker Study and the Stolley Report? With the city’s new $40,000 laserfiche system, I sure hope so!)

    July 8, 2010
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    I don’t see answers yet to 3 of my questions:

    – Do downtown business owners and their employees too often park on Division or is that a myth?

    – How rigorously do the police enforce downtown parking ordinances?

    – What do we know that has worked and not worked in other downtowns of our size/type?

    July 8, 2010
  32. Kiffi Summa said:

    Griff:* As a building owner, I sometimes park in front of my building,but often park in my lot to the West of it, where we have spaces that belong to our building/us.

    *In my observation , the enforcement is random and totally unpredictable; and it is virtually impossible for us to enforce the private aspect of the spaces to the West of the building.

    * Haven’t a clue, but I would think that regular enforcement would help, wouldn’t you?

    July 8, 2010
  33. norman butler said:

    If I see a vacant space, anywhere, anytime, I’m in like Flynn!

    July 8, 2010
  34. Joshua Dale said:

    I think the meter idea is great! Not to mention the extra revenue the city would make off of them! Although Kiffi brings up a good point. People park in private lots all around the downtown area, and that can be difficult. Even with proper markings, people will still take advantage of a “free” parking spot. I’ve seen police on foot patrol downtown. If meters are installed, they’d have to check those too, and issue citations for run out meters. Who would get the ball rolling on this?

    July 8, 2010
  35. Joshua Dale said:

    I’m guilty as well. Many times I’ve been in a hurry to get coffee at Blue Monday, I’ve parked in the bank lot…hundreds of times over the years. It’s open season now on that lot!

    July 8, 2010
  36. If parking meters are installed, Northfield might as well say good bye to the small town charm thing it has going on now, which is slowly being whittled away. Coming from Chicago, I can tell you that meters dominate the atmosphere (read coffee shop conversations) and dislike for the meter readers job is big…even more so since the city sold the meters to a private company and rates skyrocketed earlier this year.

    Meters also break down, get filled with ice, get damaged through vandalism, cars smashing into them, and who wants to be out in the harsh weather conditions for a few dollars in change. The stores are not all opened all those hours or days per week and they cost a lot of money and permanent change the walkways which are already too narrow.

    At first glance, I am against it. Of course, stores could offer to pay for any overages.

    July 9, 2010
  37. mike paulsen said:

    It might be worth talking to the folks in River Falls. They have meters downtown. The first 12-15 minutes are free, and if memory serves) there’s a relatively short maximum time limit (1 hour?) to discourage long term parking. I would imagine that different meter settings could be used in different areas depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Main street could have 15 minutes free with a 1 hour maximum while the lots have 1 hour free with 4 hour maximum, for example.

    See page 40 of their 2010 budget for some numbers:

    July 9, 2010
  38. John S. Thomas said:

    I understand your position…

    However, let me ask you this. Which would you rather have. A Parking facility that was paid by user fees from parking, or a Free Parking facility that came out of your property tax dollars?

    I am not saying that parking meters are the solution, I am just saying it is one possible revenue source, and of course it has drawbacks.

    July 9, 2010
  39. I’d like parking to be something that people don’t have to worry about how they are going to get the currency that the meter takes, and what to do if the meter is broken and what the consequences are if they get a ticket, and how to get the ticket or tickets fixed, and all the people that will ignore the tickets and the fines and still parking will be tight for many who just want to get a cup of coffee to go. Sorry, i just want to impress upon people what another sticky wicket it will eventually turn out to be.
    I’m not saying much more about a parking structure because I loathe them.
    I like the idea of a small shuttle going up and down Division and by the Library and over to Just Foods or Farmer’s Market every fifteen minutes during busy times of the day to catch the overage of shoppers who can’t park. Otherwise I think downtown is about as developed as it should be. Improve on offerings and let it be the size and scope that it is. It’s just fine the way it is.

    July 9, 2010
  40. David Ludescher said:


    The number of parking spots include private lots such as our law office, which has about 20 spaces on the lot where a car can be parked. So, the metering idea wouldn’t cover that many spaces.

    The only spaces that seem to be at a premium are on Division between 2nd and 6th. The quickest way to create more parking on Division would be to ensure that building owners and tenants don’t use the public spaces.

    Folks should remember that a publicly funded parking lot means that guys like me have to buy our own land and pay property taxes for our parking spaces. If we use tax dollars for a public parking lot, then I have to pay again for some other business to have a public space.

    I think that limited parking (two hours?) monitored by the businesses on Division would solve the problem.

    July 10, 2010
  41. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    I don’t have .PDFs of the Walker Study or the Stolley Report; I was given paper copies by some village elders a few years ago. You’ll need to take up your LaserFische fantasies with Mayor Mary.

    As for the informal parking analysis by downtown stakeholders, they came through a Block Head Gathering, several NDDC Parking Task Force Meetings, and feedback from business owners as I walked the “Save the Best Parking for Our Customers” materials around downtown. Approximately 60 people agreed that the parking is tight in the 200 and 300 Block in the morning, tight in the 300 and 400 Block around mid-day, and tight in the 400 and 500 Block in the evening. It’s probably somewhat related to coffee, lunch, and dinner.

    I will note that the “Save the Best Parking for Our Customers” materials are produced on an annual basis to remind building and business owners, and their employees, not to park in the in-demand spaces. Some building and business owners have expressed their appreciation for this annual reminder and this might be interpreted as indicating that it could be a problem.

    Parking meters have been discussed, I think in the Stolley Report, and by various stakeholders. Some support it, arguing that it would keep people from parking all day in one spot; others oppose it, saying that the malls offer free parking.

    Ultimately, parking, metered or un-metered, comes down to enforcement. I do see police officers marking tires with chalk on a regular basis. Could they do it more often? Maybe, it probably depends on what else they’ve got going on. Some people have noted that the parking ticket fines (is it a rather modest six or eight dollars?) don’t go to the police or parking but go to the City’s general funds.

    A few people have suggested the solution is to require all buildings in the downtown to provide their own parking spaces. Some might respond that the resulting design would be more appropriate to a highway-style development, with an ample parking lot surrounding each building, and be somewhat at odds with the look and feel of our historic downtown, with the traditional zero-lot lines and on-street parking.

    Others have noted that the creation of numerous privately-owned parking lots, instead of a few publicly-shared parking lots, is an inefficient use of resources. In the example I offered above, a conveniently located public parking lot could serve the shifting demands during the day, instead of creating private parking lots that were relatively unused two-thirds of the day.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do know that this is an issue that has been discussed for over ten years, the collected opinions of the consultants, staff and stakeholders have supported the creation of additional public parking in the downtown, and the biggest obstacle has been a lack of money. That’s probably why the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force recommended using a portion of the remaining TIF proceeds to develop a public parking lot.

    July 11, 2010
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    Ross, in my 7 years of taking thousands of downtown photos, I’ve never seen a Northfield police officer chalking tires to enforce the two-hour parking limit. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’m guessing it doesn’t happen very often. I could be wrong, tho.

    Could the PD provide a summary of chalking activities and # of tickets issued in the past year?

    July 11, 2010
  43. I’d like to see a store for kids that sold kits and toys with science, math and engineering in mind at the old Community Bank location…and then have special classes for kids and adults alike in that same realm. But then I’m such a dreamer.

    July 12, 2010
  44. Tracy Davis said:

    Griff, I agree it isn’t predictably enforced, but I have noticed a pattern – it seems to happen more regularly in the early summer (I think it’s usually after the colleges let out).

    Don’t ask me how I know this. 🙁

    July 12, 2010
  45. David Ludescher said:


    I think I disagree. The downtown can clearly use more parking IN FRONT OF THE STORES. I doubt that additional Division Street spaces would open up if a parking lot were to be built.

    There is always parking available on Washington Street. The lot between 4th and 5th usually has spots open. 4th and 6th Street almost always has spaces available.

    July 12, 2010
  46. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    The plan is to have building and business owners and workers park in the long-term parking, the parking lots, and the customers park in the short-term parking, Division Street. Thus the slogan, “Save the best parking for our customers”.

    July 12, 2010
  47. David Ludescher said:


    There is plenty of long-term parking now for the business owners – Washington Street, 4th Street (soon), 6th Street, and the City parking lot almost always have spots now. Why can’t the business owners use those spaces?

    July 12, 2010
  48. kiffi summa said:

    Ross: The Walker parking study identified four or more ‘hidden’ spaces where parking could be spread around; can’t remember where these all were, and maybe they are on privately owned land, but this was certainly something that should be explored, and never was.

    I just get really frustrated by hiring consultants to do studies and then not doing anything with them. The council does not have to do what consultants recommend, but they sure as heck ought to discuss the suggestions thoroughly after for paying for the study… and they did not do that after the Walker study.
    And it’s even OK to put those studies ‘on the shelf’ for later , but then go back and discuss it when the subject comes up again.

    For the record/on-line survey… I am downtown several times almost every day and only very sporadically see parking enforcement.

    July 12, 2010
  49. kiffi summa said:

    Talk about compulsive. I’m replying to myself! 😉

    Actually just had an idea… the EDA has $$ for infill and redevelopment, but there is no one wanting to do much at this time so maybe some of those infill $$ could go to leasing or preferably buying those ‘hidden’ spaces if they are on private land, and the owners consider it excess land, and then the EDA could develop little ‘pocket’ Parking lots…
    Yeah, I know I would prefer Pocket Parks, but that isn’t going to happen, most of this EDA is way too stodgy, IMO.

    July 12, 2010
  50. William Siemers said:

    Good luck explaining to tax payers that a property tax increase is needed to balance the budget and, by the way, we’re building a new parking lot that we kindasortamaybe need for $800,000.

    I know these are different buckets of different tax payers’ money, but it is taxpayer money just the same. This parking lot is not a pressing problem. Can somebody tell me why this can not wait while we deal with the budget?

    July 13, 2010
  51. David Koenig said:

    Just visited my hometown of Valparaiso, IN last night and had dinner in their downtown. When I lived there it was about 20,000 in population, now 30,000+. Lost their downtown to big box (in the 1970s), but have finally restored a great deal of vibrancy to it.

    I spoke with a few people and asked them why. Among several reason cited was the REMOVAL of parking meters. An interesting point made, which is consistent with some behavioral psychology around loss is that it was not just the inconvenience of feeding the meter, it was the expectation (assigning too high of a probability) that they would get a ticket if they overstayed their meter.

    I firmly believe that we should not introduce any barriers to shopping downtown and would be opposed to parking meters. The anecdote above, combined with the very real psychology around the probability of loss, suggests to me that we risk doing more damage to merchants by installing meters.

    July 13, 2010
  52. David Koenig said:

    WARNING – Thread drift

    I wanted to mention a very cool thing that they did in Valparaiso to draw people downtown. Someone collected some old pianos that people were ready to throw away and put them out on various street corners downtown.

    They are there for anybody to play at any time and are placed near businesses that have outside seating and in front of the courthouse (the center piece of downtown). We saw people playing on almost all of the pianos, sometimes very talented players and sometimes kids.

    But it was such a “Northfield” thing to do, I thought it might be a very cool experiment for the NDDC and if it worked, would draw more people into our downtown, raising the value of additional parking (ah…thread connection!)

    Ross, if you want more details, let me know….

    July 13, 2010
  53. David Ludescher said:

    David K:

    Got any suggestions on how to keep the Division Street spots open?

    July 13, 2010
  54. David Koenig said:

    yes, see Post #1 in this discussion. 🙂

    I would support the build-out of a new parking area to serve the Grand, Library, Carleton Arts Union and downtown workers between 3rd and 4th on Washington, with an eye towards a possible structure being built there in the future.

    I would also suggest that we mix up the Division St parking with some 30 minute spots (very clearly marked) and 3-hour spots (shopping and lunch or dinner)….which must be enforced.

    An education plan or signs downtown that direct people to Long-Term Parking in the two lots and side streets would also help. The signs downtown are a great addition…just add Long-Term Parking to them.

    July 13, 2010
  55. john george said:

    David- Pianos? This could be a key to downtown vitality, I suppose. Perhaps the EDA should take note of this.

    July 13, 2010
  56. David Koenig said:

    Here’s a YouTube video from one location in front of the ice cream parlor:

    Lots of auto traffic looking for parking places! (Thread connection)

    July 13, 2010
  57. David Koenig said:

    Oops…maybe that didn’t work. Try clicking here.

    July 13, 2010
  58. Ross Currier said:

    William –

    It can be challenging to explain, and even if you do an adequate job explaining, people may still not support it.

    You are correct, these are different buckets of money. All of the money in the Streetscape Fund comes from the taxes paid by the property owners in the TIF District. Theoretically, you would be taking the taxes paid by these property owners to create parking which would support the businesses occupying their properties.

    As for the tax-increase-to-balance-the-budget bucket of money, you would be increasing the taxes on the commercial property owners throughout Northfield to pay for Government Buildings, Recreation, Public Works, Public Safety, and General Government:

    July 13, 2010
  59. David Ludescher said:


    Couldn’t we do the 30 minute spots, the 3 hour spots, and the education program without building a parking ramp? Shouldn’t we try the obvious solutions before we spend $800,000?

    (I had also suggested that we could paint white stripes down Water and Seventh Street before we spent $250,000 on the bikeped trail.)

    July 13, 2010
  60. David Koenig said:

    David, yes.

    I would advocate for the following steps:

    1. Change the mix of parking spaces (30 min and 3 hr), educate/communicate and enforce now.

    2. Simultaneously, gain control of the land between 3rd and 4th on Washington ($400K or so to buy, option on the land might be less than $10,000 for a cap on the price)

    3. If the changes in step 1 result in a noticeable, but not sufficient, improvement, or if parking demand grows (Library is expanded, Carleton Arts Union activity levels are high) then build out the one-level parking area ($750,000). This might be 1-3 years from now.

    4. Simultaneously plan the concept for a multi-level ramp as well as its costs (building costs and ongoing maintenance costs) so that if there is a clear need for such, the plan can be executed in a timely fashion. This might be 2-10 years from now.

    July 13, 2010
  61. David,

    Why 3 hours, and not 2 hours? (not that it matters that much, I am just trying to understand your point of view).

    Downtown is not that big, and frankly, I cannot think of that many things that would keep me in one parking spot for three hours, dinner included.

    Evening events, such as those at the Grand would begin in the early evening, but parking restrictions would lift before the three hour limit would expire.

    We don’t want to rush the customers… I understand that. I am just trying to understand why you came up with the number 3.

    Great ideas by the way!

    July 13, 2010
  62. David Koenig said:

    Hi John,

    No magic in three hours, but I think the trick is to mix in enough stop and shop time (30 minutes) with spaces that allow people to not worry about the time when they come to town and visit.

    Maybe someone comes for coffee and conversation, then decides to walk along Division to do some shopping. We’d hate to have them say no to that because they worried their two hours were up. (fear of loss)

    Same scenario might apply for a lunch meeting.

    I think that all in all, very few people would need three hours. But, it would be nice if they never had the worry about overstaying their time and getting a ticket.

    The stop and shop spaces would be like most of those in front of Blue Monday which seem to turnover quickly. They provide more opportunities for someone to pop-in at a store for one item without having to park more than 1/2 block away, which as has been rightly noted in this discussion, is a psychological barrier despite it being less distance than most walk in a large store parking lot.

    July 13, 2010
  63. David Ludescher said:

    David: Why not do step 1 and see what the result is? It might solve the problem.

    July 13, 2010
  64. David Koenig said:

    David, because the rest is just good planning. I think its just good business to be thinking and planning more than one step ahead.

    July 13, 2010
  65. David Ludescher said:

    David: So, if the downtown parking problem could be solved by more strict enforcement, why would it be good planning to get more parking?

    July 13, 2010
  66. David Koenig said:

    David, please read step 1. Enforcement is just part of it and there is no suggestion of extra parking as step one, just a change in times, education/communication and enforcement. I don’t think any one of those alone will be sufficient.

    But, I still believe it is best to plan ahead….otherwise you simply react…

    July 13, 2010
  67. Well, I have to be perfectly honest here. I LOVE GBM coffee, but…

    …every single time I go by, I cannot get near the place. Because of this fact, I have been patronizing the wonderful Bittersweet Eatery. It is much easier to park near Second and Division than it is near GBM.

    July 13, 2010
  68. Patrick Enders said:

    I suspect that parking near GBM will improve greatly after 4th St reopens. That was a _lot_ of temporarily lost parking, and I never failed to find a parking spot there before the closure.

    (The shade from The Rare Pair building also keeps/kept my non-air-conditioned car nice and cool.)

    July 13, 2010
  69. john george said:

    David K.- That is a great link! I’m sure that is a program the upright citizens of Northfield could support. Perhaps we could even get one of the colleges to donate a grand for the front of the Grand. It should get good reviews no matter how you spinet. The only downside I can foresee is what to do with the overflow of pedestrians listening to the entertainment.

    July 13, 2010
  70. This feels like a win-win.

    Perhaps we could collaborate with the Historical Society for evening storage, and it could be placed right on Bridge Square next to the popcorn cart, where it can be monitored.

    July 13, 2010
  71. Griff Wigley said:

    Oooh, I love this idea of public pianos!

    July 14, 2010
  72. Ross Currier said:

    Pianos? Shades of Ann North.

    July 14, 2010
  73. Tracy Davis said:

    FYI, I just got a copy of the Walker parking study from 2001, as well a s couple other documents, and have put them on my planning blog on the Northfield Resources page.

    See here.

    July 15, 2010
  74. kiffi summa said:

    Hey Tracy… Look at the map in the Walker Study which identifies what I called the “hidden’ parking possibilities (comment #23) and see what you think about developing those, as an incremental fix.
    Maybe the Planning Commission can help shake loose some of those TIF dollars or influence the EDA (#23.1) to use some of their infill money .

    July 16, 2010
  75. Jane McWilliams said:

    I love the idea of a piano on the square or in front of GBN or the Hideaway, but who is going to wheel them in when the rain starts to fall? It wouldn’t take more than a few drops to ruin an already over the hill instrument.

    July 16, 2010
  76. David Koenig said:

    Hi Jane,

    The pianos we saw had covers on the ground next to them. I think that it was a Kiwanis project, but my guess is that someone nearby each piano has offered to cover it at night and when it looks stormy.

    It was my understanding that these were pianos that were on their way out of this life anyway. They must have been tuned a bit, though, and perhaps they have added one summer to their expected life, but no more.

    If the NDDC or the Arts Commission are interested in this, I would be happy to find out who organized it in Valpo and they can get all of the details.

    July 16, 2010
  77. The only thing I liked this much, is when Chicago put a green roof atop of City Hall, which is a full square block, several years ago.

    This is really something for a shopping area…

    cut and paste the above URL in and then click on ‘proceed to the site’.

    July 17, 2010
  78. Maybe we could do one half block like that sometime.

    July 17, 2010
  79. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: Parking project stalls at City Council

    But the $760,000 parking project — which includes purchasing a piece of downtown property near the city’s library, demolishing a structure on the site and surfacing the proposed lot — brought little return on the expected investment. According to the task force, the city would gain 10 spaces, a figure that astonished the council…

    The parking project is on hold pending further discussion by the task force and review of what was termed an “old” parking study. The study and others over the last 25 years, task force member Dan Bergeson said, have recommended additional parking on the north end of the historic district.

    January 29, 2011

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