Congested parking ramps at 50th & France in Edina will get a face-lift this year and parking rules will be tightened to make it easier for customers to find spaces in the busy ramps.
This week the Edina City Council unanimously approved the $5.7 million project, which will start construction in June and end in October 2015.
The cost will be split, with the city paying about $2.4 million in ramp improvement costs while businesses are assessed for $3.3 million in repair and maintenance costs.
Parking in the three city ramps at 50th & France is free, but the ramps are used by employees of businesses in the area as well as customers. It has been a struggle to balance the two. Beginning next month, it will be more expensive for employees to park in the ramps, and the city is increasing enforcement to make sure employees park where they’re supposed to.
The most popular of the three ramps is often full at noon or peak hours, and it can take drivers 20 minutes to wind through the ramp before leaving without finding a space.
There are two other ramps nearby, but with no directional signs and entrances off the busiest roads, some customers apparently don’t know they are there.
New signs will tell drivers when a ramp is full and point them to ramps with space.
To make the area more appealing, ramps will be spruced up with new paint, brighter lighting, screened garbage areas and will be repaired. The popular South ramp will get a new elevator.
Areas near the ramps will be fixed, too, with replacement of broken pavers, tired planter beds and dying trees. Ramp maintenance will be improved, with regular power washing and better trash collection.
And unclear rules about employee parking in the ramps will be tightened, city economic development Manager Bill Neuendorf told the council.
“We heard loudly and clearly from business owners and the City Council that customer parking is their highest priority,” he said. “We don’t want to chase away customers, and we want employees to park in [the least desirable locations]. Employees must stick to the rules.”
There are 951 ramp parking spaces in the three ramps. Forty-nine percent are designated customer-only, 8 percent are reserved for employees, and 43 percent are first come, first served for anyone.
For the first time, employees who park in the ramps will be required to buy a permit, and they may be ticketed if they don’t. Prices for employee parking will be increased from $60 a year to at least $120, and community service officers have already begun visiting ramps more often and checking to see if cars remain in prime parking spots all day long.
With two-thirds of customers staying three hours or less, that’s a strong hint that such a parker is likely an employee.
“But it’s not easy,” Neuendorf said. “No one walks in with an employee sticker on their forehead.”
Employees will be told to park in the less-popular Middle and North ramps.
Neuendorf warned the council that this may not be the last tweaking the city does with parking rules at 50th & France.
“I think we’re another step closer, but this will require monitoring,” he said. “For now, let’s see how this works.”