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.

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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Merchants Credit/Debit Fees
    The City Water Dept. recently set-up a new EBilling system and informed customers that because of bank charges they would have to pass these on for ‘one time’ payers.
    I find it odd that for decades banks and the government have promoted a Cashless society but continue to add fees for doing so—forcing most who understand the economics of this to pay with cash.
    Everyday I see people paying for $3 fast food and drug store merchandise with debit/credit cards. Perhaps some are not aware of the cost to merchants and I assume the students could not care about the merchants and this is a way for the parents to pay for everything. Nothing is free—merchants wind-up increasing their prices to offset. Merchants tell me they can’t inform customers for stop taking these credit/debit, even for those under $10, for fear of loss of customers.
    I’m not a merchant, just amazed by how little the public knows or cares.

  2. If the city has to subsidize
    If the city has to subsidize 26k it sounds like there are still a number of people who shop downtown. As usual another stupid liberal idea with cost the taxpayers.

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