I’ve been observing the ongoing debate regarding the history behind free parking in downtown Naperville and the future funding of additional parking as the allure of the Naperville experience continues to expand.
In the 1970’s, downtown decided to battle back against the rise of indoor shopping malls and strip malls with ample parking by keeping parking free in downtown. Today, downtown Naperville has survived and thrived amidst the glut of strip malls which stripped away the attraction of downtowns across America in the 70s.
Some suggest that downtown is a strong enough destination to sustain present levels of economic activity while implementing paid parking to fund the additional structures which are needed. Others turn to the new food and beverage tax which would allow an additional 1% to be added if the majority of downtown restaurants agree. Still others suggest that restaurants should not be left to shoulder the burden as there are many downtown offices and businesses that occupy parking spaces all day long.
Today I offer another angle to be considered which perhaps holds the answer to the dilemma. We must ask residents and visitors alike who frequent downtown Naperville to determine their tolerance for paid parking and the amount they might be willing to pay in maintaining their regular visits. If we discover, via interviews and survey research, that paid parking would be a deterrent to trips downtown, the answer and potential risk may become very clear.