Free riverfront district parking in Chattanooga may end

Free riverfront district parking in Chattanooga may end

October 26th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Parking lot

Parking lot

Photo by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

Free parking in public lots in downtown Chattanooga's riverfront district may soon end.

Spaces in the last of the large, free public lots in the area could start costing motorists as much as $5 a day.

City officials are eyeing a plan that would charge from $3 to $5 a day to park in the 88-space lot at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.

"Right now, we feel like we could start getting some business," said Brad Burkett of AAA Parking, which has managed the lot for the city during events.

Burkett told the city panel that owns the lot that a gravel parcel across Walnut Street had been used for free parking. But that site has become a construction zone as it will hold a new 100-unit apartment building next year.

"There's a demand in that area," Burkett told the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp.

Burkett is slated to put together a plan for the city panel regarding pay parking on its lot.

Free parking in the riverfront district has been disappearing over the past couple of years as the city put in pay stations in lots it owns. In addition, Unum Group has contracted with a private parking company, which has put in pay stations in lots which previously had been free on weekends.

Burkett said the Walnut and Aquarium Way lot is the last of the big free lots in the district. Part of the lot has been used as a staging area for a developer building townhomes on the block.

Mike Moon, the developer, said he still plans to use a small portion of the lot as he continues to put up townhomes.

Moon has built a number of townhomes on nearby Cherry Street and will start erecting housing along Third Street soon. But, with the slow housing market, he's building the residences at a measured pace.

Moon said plans eventually are to put townhomes on the parking lot, though not anytime soon.