KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Business owners around the City Market gathered Thursday to voice their opinions about a new paid parking policy going into effect this month.
Many of the tenants brought up concerns. Deb Churchill with City Market's management group, KC Commercial Realty Group, said nothing is final yet.
Tenants said they just want to make sure the policy isn't penalizing customers. It would charge people $3 for three hours, and a dollar for every additional hour to park in the City Market's five lots. The policy would be in place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week.
"We're going to lose quite a bit of business," Mike Carollo, owner of Carollo's Italian Grocery, predicted.
Carollo fears that charging customers to park in the City Market square will scare people away. Right now, that lot is free for three hours. The other lots are free all day.
"I have a lot of repeat customers. They know that it's free in the market for [three] hours and they can come in and shop and leave," Carollo said.
"If your premise is to stop long-term parking, your solution is penalizing short-term parking. How do these two things make any sense?" one tenant asked Churchill. "It speaks volumes that this is the one you came up with to start with. I would be amazed if the end plan doesn't very strongly resemble the one you talked about."
City Market management's idea to charge for parking in their lots is to push long-term parkers out.
Many people park their cars in a free lot, commute to work on the streetcar and come back in the afternoon, which essentially takes spaces away from customers for eight hours.
"It's ridiculous," Mary Harmon said, who works at Cascone's Grill. "I've had people drive by and actually say, 'There's nowhere to park, we go somewhere else.'"
Cascone's on 5th Street technically isn't inside the City Market, but Harmon says business is still affected because they're next to one of those free lots.
Although Thursday's meeting was only for City Market tenants, Harmon and Cascone's owner attended.
Churchill said they'll give hang tags for City Market employees to park for free.
Because Cascone's and the other businesses across the street from the market are not owned by KC Commercial Realty Group, those employees won't be getting free parking passes.
Churchill told Harmon to take it up with Cascone's landlord.
Harmon, fuming, got up with two other women and walked out of the meeting.
"I'm not paying. I told them I'm not paying to park. I will throw every ticket away. I'm not doing it," Harmon said.
Management suggested free 30-minute parking for customers as an option, but many tenants said that's not long enough, and why not make all the lots free for two hours. They say that would push out the commuters while allowing customers to come and go.
Another tenant pointed out that his customers' average bill is $10, so charging them three dollars to park for an hour isn't fair.
Churchill said that everything is under consideration.
"I would leave it the same as it is now," Carollo said.
Tenants hope they'll have a say in the final plan.