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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Retailers concerned about downtown parking
Some Downtown Duluth retailers are concerned about the city's plan to reconstruct Superior Street and how it will affect parking.
At a Tuesday meeting, the issue of establishing bicycle lanes drew concern from several business owners, who said adding bike lanes would take away from on-street parking spaces.
Rick Heimbach of Bagley & Co. and Jack Seiler of Security Jewelers both questioned if recent surveys adequately reflect the views of people who make purchases at downtown stores.
“If I do my math right, you’ve got 600 people who responded to the pedestrian/bicycle survey. Ten percent (60 people) say they’re hard core bikers. Of that, five percent (30 people) are hard core bikers who want biking on Superior Street,” Heimbach said. “We should do a survey in our businesses that asks customers how they got there and what their preferences are.”
“No disrespect to bikers, but shoppers come by car,” Seiler noted. “The lifeblood of retail is parking.”
Although the Duluth City Council has adopted a plan that would allow a bike lane on Superior Street, City Planning Director Keith Hamre said further study has determined there’s not enough space available, given the desire to include pedestrian amenities when the thoroughfare is reconstructed. Currently, Michigan, First and Second streets are the most likely places to add a bike lane, he said.
In an interview, Heimbach said it’s not just a bike lane that could reduce the availability of on-street parking for retail stores. Other aspects of the new Superior Street design also could reduce customer traffic, he believes.
“I think they’re geared to making this an aesthetically pleasing layout rather than one that’s geared toward business,” he said, noting that plentiful diagonal parking between Third and Fourth Avenues West on Superior Street is the envy of businesses throughout downtown Duluth.
Meetings will be held in April and May to address parking and the Superior Street plan before a final recommendation is made to city councilors.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, criticism arose regarding a recent decision to formalize free on-street Saturday parking citywide. Duluth Parking Manager Matthew Kennedy said the free parking would not be offered at municipal parking lots, which would continue to charge on Saturdays.
Some downtown business owners said that’s just the opposite of what would work best. They said the free on-street parking would discourage all-day workers from parking in ramps and encourage them to park in front of stores, making those spaces unavailable to customers.
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