Free parking at the Midtown YWCA will soon be a thing of the past.
Starting in September members who park at 2121 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis while working out or taking classes will have to pay for the spot.
Too many nonmembers were parking in the lot’s 178 spaces and squeezing out members, so officials are spending $200,000 to install gates and a pay station.
“The neighborhood has transformed in the past few years and that has resulted in a lot of misuse,” said Luz Maria Frias, YWCA president and CEO. “We get a lot of unauthorized people” who park and take the light rail or visit neighboring businesses. “We were the last bastion of parking that is not guarded.”
Over the past few years, a park-and-ride lot near the Lake Street light-rail station closed and a new Hennepin County service center with pay parking opened. A nearby Minneapolis Public Schools adult education center and South High School, along with new development in the area, have brought increased demand for parking.
Frias said other attempts to solve the problem have failed. Employees have left notes on the windshields of unauthorized parkers and had cars towed on a second offense, said spokeswoman Corinne Mattli.
That was time consuming, and created safety issues when staff members confronted drivers, Frias said. Members were issued parking tags to hang on their rearview mirror, but that did not stop the illegal parking, she said.
Between 1,500 to 2,000 people visit the YWCA each day, and many have trouble finding a place to park. That is what led to the decision to install pay parking.
Tom Huberty, a longtime member, agreed that parking can be a problem. But he and other members were caught off guard. He learned of the decision through an e-mail and letter recently sent to members.
“They did not invite dialogue before they arrived at the decision,” he said. “I’m disappointed. Free parking has been appreciated.”
When the new rates take effect, members can pay $15 a month for unlimited parking privileges or pay a nominal fee per visit. For visits between 20 minutes and 1 hour and 15 minutes, the rate will be $1. It will be $2 for up to 2½ hours and $7 for three to four hours. The maximum charge will be $20 for six or more hours.
Members with scholarships will have parking fees waived, Frias said.
The YWCA already charges for parking at its two other locations in Uptown and downtown Minneapolis.
Though some members have taken to Twitter to decry the parking fees at Midtown, Huberty said the extra $15 a month won’t drive him away. Still, he had hoped another solution could have been found.
“We’ve tried to remedy this issue without shifting the cost to our members,” Frias said. “This is not going to get us rich and it’s produced by our circumstances.”
But there is an upside, according to Frias.
“Members will be able to park without frustration,” she said.