It May Be Ugly, But Business is Brisk

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COLUMBIA - Many Columbia residents complained about the downtown parking garage at 5th and Walnut Street when it opened in March 2011. The city had leased only 20% of the available permit spaces in the first two months.

But now Jill Stedem of Columbia Public Works told KOMU Tuesday that 72% of the 520 permit spots are now leased.

Jodi Hardwick, who has owned a permit since the garage opened, says she notices the increase every day.

"I used to park on, I think it is the third level where the permit parking starts. And now, it's a race to the third level. If not, then you are definitely going up to like the fifth or sixth level."

Hardwick says she has not seen an increase in hourly parking like she has in permit parking.

"I have noticed more of the spots that are available in the parking garage are hourly spots. However, I seem to notice more permit parking taking place," she says.

The city will also start generating more money from the commercial retail spaces on the ground level of the garage. All ten of the spaces sat empty for months, but now, Stedem says, seven of the rental spaces have been leased. City of Coumbia Parking Enforcement will occupy two spaces and REDI or Regional Economic Development, Inc. will lease five others. Although both of these businesses are supported by taxpayers, Stedem says they will pay rent on the retail space just like any other business would. The city is continuing to look for businesses to lease the three remaining commercial spaces.