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Free parking deals offered downtown

Shoppers in downtown Evanston can take advantage between now and the holidays of two free-parking deals approved by the City Council Monday.

From now until Thanksgiving shoppers will be able to park free for up to four hours at the Maple Avenue garage.

That program is designed to offset the inconvenience of the lane closures on Maple Avenue caused by the construction project that’s widening sidewalks in the area around the Church Street Plaza Shopping Center.

City staff estimate the fee waiver will cost $26,700 in lost parking revenue, which the city plans to reimburse to the parking fund from money left in the Downtown II tax increment financing district which expires at the end of the year.

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A parking shuttle trolley ready to navigate the sea of construction barricades along Maple Avenue.

The shopping center’s owner, Church Street Plaza SPE, LLC says it’s also taking a number of steps to draw people into the stores during the construction project, including providing trolley service from stores to the parking garage, offering free coffee to shoppers who make a purchase of $30 or more and creating a series of outdoor events for kids during the construction project.

Then, starting on Thanksgiving and running through Jan. 2, parking will be free at all downtown garages and in Lot 60 at 1234 Chicago Ave. on weekdays after 5 p.m. and all day on weekends.

That program, an expansion of one run last year, is expected to cost $42,200 in lost parking revenue to the city, which may be at least partially offset by increased sales tax revenue if the promotion is successful in drawing more shoppers downtown.

Sunday parking is already free in the garages year-round.

The Chamber of Commerce and the downtown marketing organization EvMark are working with the city to promote the program.

Last year, the first for the free holiday parking program, saw a 5 percent increase in parking garage usage during the free parking hours compared to the same period the year before.

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