One week has passed since the City of Manhattan implemented paid parking in Aggieville, but not everyone has been happy about the change.
An online petition, started by employees at Aggieville’s Bluestem Bistro, is calling for a return to free parking, citing specific concerns with the City of Manhattan’s charging Aggieville employees a monthly fee to park in the garage long-term. It also points to a squeeze on parking in the district caused by ongoing construction to redevelop the area.
Bluestem Bistro co-owner Nancy Evangelidis says it’s bad timing with Aggieville under construction, making it harder for customers to access their storefronts, and amid a business district still reeling from the economic impact of COVID-19.
“I don’t expect for us to have free parking for our staff indefinitely, but how about we just kind of get us through and support the businesses because our numbers are down. I know we have to pay for the parking garage and that money doesn’t come out of thin air, but why are we doing it with the people that are actually trying to make it a place — a destination location,” she said.
The online petition, so far had garnered over 5,800 signatures as of Monday. Evangelidis says she supports her employees and that it’s something hindering the district’s ability to hire.
“My costs are increasing. If I want to get good staff I have to increase my wages, which is 100% accurate and needs to be done, but now I’m having to ask them to pay for parking? They’re (the City of Manhattan) going to drive any quality staff potential (away from) here. I won’t be able to hire,” she said.
The garage opened in April and the city has long discussed its intent to charge, noting there are different fees for users, including employees. Assistant City Manager Jared Wasinger, who appeared on KMAN’s In Focus Friday, says he doesn’t see a scenario where the city moves away from permitted parking.
“It’s $25 a month for a part-time employee and $40 a month if you’re a full-time employee. That’s a month-to-month type of deal. We’ve really reduced that rate when you think about it. As a part-time employee, it’s about $1 day to have access to long-term parking in the garage,” he said.
Wasinger says the city is sympathetic to the needs of Aggieville business owners but also says the city must recoup its costs.
“The reason we’re doing it now is that you have to start investing in it right away, you can’t let a garage sit there. We’re even kind of seeing it with our downtown garage — at the Hilton Garden Inn and the conference center. It’s free to park there right now and there is maintenance costs that need to occur. Right now there’s not a revenue source for that,” he said.
Going forward, Wasinger says city staff plan to evaluate how well paid parking is working as a revenue source, at least every six months.
Public comments on the matter will be accepted during the Feb. 7 meeting of the Manhattan City Commission. Evangelidis says she hopes to see a good turnout from those who have signed the petition.
“And you bet your bottom dollar, there will be people there. I know I can’t get 5,000 people down there, but I sure wanna see standing room only,” she said.
The first two hours of parking are free in the Aggieville garage. It’s $2 per hour afterward, with a daily maximum of $10 per hour. The City had proposed one hour free parking in late 2022, with the Aggieville Business Association proposing a three hour limit. The two sides compromised on the two hour limit.
You can read more on the city’s new parking rates on the City of Manhattan website.