Business owners, city officials convene to discuss parking issues

Solutions will come yet this season, councilmember pledges

by Tara Bannow

Having recently married and graduated from the University of Minnesota with $25,000 in loans, Jeff Barnhart could use some extra cash. Selling game day parking in his dadâÄôs five lots near the TCF Bank Stadium seemed just the way to do it. But, as was the case for anyone who sold spots, the city of Minneapolis stepped in. âÄúOur lots sit empty on Saturdays and all weâÄôre asking for is an easy way to get a license,âÄù he said. Barnhart, his father Dave Barnhart, and nearly 40 business owners, city staff, community members and Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon met Thursday to discuss potential solutions for parking issues on game days. While no resolution was formulated, each side got a chance to hear the otherâÄôs concerns. By the end of the meeting, Gordon, initially resigned to waiting until next football season, pledged to find a solution before the current season ends. In preparing for the stadium and the light rail, a number of factors needed to be considered, city officials said, and certain entities were likely to be upset. âÄúLo and behold, we found something here thatâÄôs a problem,âÄù Gordon said. âÄúIâÄôm not sure how to define it, but weâÄôre in a pickle.âÄù It all started with the first football game, when businesses were slapped with warnings or fines for charging to allow parking in their lots. To legally charge for parking, they must obtain a Class A commercial parking lot license , but are restricted from doing so because of their location within an area surrounding future light-rail stations. Steve Poor , planning supervisor in the cityâÄôs zoning department, said he notified all property owners – using a certified list from Hennepin County – of the policy with letters. This method was not without its downfalls as they didnâÄôt go to individual tenants within the buildings, who were often business owners, he said. âÄúQuite frankly, IâÄôm not sure any of us knew how this was going to play out,âÄù he said. âÄúWe all were on the learning curve.âÄù Some business owners asked about the possibility of receiving temporary commercial parking lot licenses for events. City officials said theyâÄôd need to examine the potential consequences. Gordon expressed concern that if allowed to charge, businesses might tear down their buildings and only offer parking. âÄúWhat we donâÄôt necessarily want happening from an economic standpoint is that all of a sudden itâÄôs so lucrative to sell parking, youâÄôll quit selling roast beef sandwiches or youâÄôll quit selling coffee,âÄù he said. Unless itâÄôs an area like downtown where there are hundreds of events a year in the Metrodome , that wouldnâÄôt be economically feasible, Brad Mateer , owner of the Harvard Market ,said. âÄúEight events a year will not support that business model,âÄù he said. Solutions will need to be deliberate and thoughtful, Poor said, or it could create another set of problems elsewhere. âÄúWe recognize this ordinance may not be serving folks on any side of discussion,âÄù he said. âÄúBut itâÄôs not so simple as to say âÄòjust do thisâÄô or âÄòjust do thatâÄô because of the way the systems work together.âÄù