Feb 26, 2013 7:40 PM by Nathan O'Neal
TUCSON - Local merchants are fuming over some parking rate hikes in downtown Tucson, which they say, in combination with ongoing construction, could discourage customers even more from coming downtown.
Shop owners met today with the city's parking officials for what, at times, became a heated exchange.
"We felt like downtown was more or less closed down," said Brian Schillizzi, speaking about the impact construction had on business on Congress.
Schillizzi, who runs two clubs on Congress and is getting ready to open another, told News 4 Tucson that an unexpected rate hike for the Pennington Garage on the weekends unfairly siphons off profits of businesses in the area.
"They've only done this on Friday and Saturday nights, which are the nights that we're really filling that garage with our clientele," Schillizzi said.
The city approved the rate hike for the Pennington Garage back in January. ParkWise officials said the rates were delayed until Congress re-opened partially at the beginning of February.
Donovan Durband, who is the ParkWise Program Administrator, said the overall usage of the garage has not declined, though he admits that it has been less than a month. Durband said they will continue to monitor the usage of the garage.
Durband sympathizes with the challenges that shop owners are facing.
"You have to cover the costs of our garages. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Tucson that the users of the parking pay for the parking," Durband told News 4 Tucson. "But we want to be sensitive to the struggles that are happening downtown."
Even so, Schillizzi said he knows his investment in opening a new club downtown will take some time to get off the ground -- and that two dollar difference could make a huge impact.
"You know two dollars really doesn't sound like much but you put 1,000 people in a weekend, it's a lot of people," Schillizzi said.
However, Schillizzi hopes that the city will hear his plea and press pause, at least for now, on the rate hikes.
"We just feel that until summer is over, until the streets are fixed, until downtown really has its economics going up, that we should hold off until September," Schillizzi said.
ParkWise officials told News 4 Tucson that the city is considering finding other ways to help businesses attract customers downtown, including finding affordable parking for employees to help clear up some of the metered parking on the streets.