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Downtown Durham raises parking prices, straining business-owners already struggling to recover

Rising parking prices in downtown could pose another challenge - just as downtown Durham was finally beginning to come back to life.

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Lora Lavigne
, WRAL Durham reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — Business owners in downtown Durham are facing yet another challenge. The economic impact of the pandemic has already taken a toll on many businesses. Now, rising parking prices in downtown could pose another challenge – just as downtown Durham was finally beginning to come back to life.

Any longtime Durham resident knows their community thrives off the success of its eclectic downtown.

With The Streetery opening pedestrian traffic on downtown streets, providing space for eating outdoors and listening to live musicians, downtown Durham has begun welcoming customers back to the area.

However, the new parking rates that went into effect this week have some business owners and customers concerned about the added cost.

With the increase of hourly parking and new evening flat rates for main parking garages, business owners say it’s another setback for everyone – especially employees who are already facing shorter shifts and economic hardship.

“For employees coming to work, their shifts are shorter. And even for a living wage employee who’s earning $15 an hour, if they are working a four-hour shift, the flat-rate parking fee is going to cost them 10% of their hourly wages," said Elizabeth Turnbull, owner of COPA.

Some Durham residents and business owners feel there wasn’t enough input before this decision was made – and that the timing is poor.

"I was a little bit blindsided by it. It seems like it’s not a way to help with parking issues. It’s just a way to make money. And we want people to come downtown," said Land Arnould, owner of Letters Bookstore.

The city is now reconsidering the parking fee increase after hearing complaints, according to Durham Mayor Steve Schewel.

"We’re already looking at this again to try to figure out some ways to alleviate that burden and see what we need to do about those parking fees," said Schewel.

Many factors contributed to the city's price hike, including the loss of special event revenue during the pandemic, as well as the struggle of having customers drive off from parking garages without paying. City officials said they also need a higher budget due to the need for more cleaning and sanitization.

For business owners, better solutions are vital to help get the local economy turned around.

"Regardless of what we do, we need to do this in a way that doesn’t hurt people who are already paying the highest price," said Turnbull.


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