Hopkins has already sold more parking permits than it has permitted spaces, and hundreds more people are expected to live and work in the downtown in the coming years. With spaces getting harder to find, Hopkins officials say it’s time to take a closer look at downtown parking.
The city plans to hire Walking Parking Consultants to conduct a $28,000 study of the city’s parking needs. The study will examine how many new spaces are needed, where they should be located, when they’ll need to be added and how parking demand might be mitigated through options like ride sharing or shared parking.
“It’ll be great to have some real analysis of it,” said Kersten Elverum, the city’s director of economic development and planning. “We’ve been going off our feelings, what we think is needed. This’ll give us more analysis.”
Parking poses a difficult balance for any downtown. It takes up space that could otherwise be used for more-profitable activities—stores, restaurants or apartments. But even though it does not directly attract visitors and new residents like the best redevelopment projects do, it is necessary for those projects to happen.
Redevelopment is already coming to Hopkins in a big way—bringing an influx of people. The Marketplace & Main project has 53 apartments and seven townhomes in addition to shops and retail space on the ground floor. The Gallery Flats project at the old Park Nicollet and Lutheran Digest sites will add 163 units, along with additional retail space. And Hennepin County plans to expand its center in the Wells Fargo building into a social services hub.
Parking also features heavily in light rail discussions. Hopkins has long pushed for the Downtown Station to be a destination stop known as a "kiss and ride" that isn't meant to have much space to park cars. Planners included 50 to 100 spaces for the station in the federal proposal only because that application required a minimum number of spots.
But the Southwest line also needs to meet ridership goals, and city officials are bracing for pressure to increase parking. Park-and-ride worries were Hopkins’ biggest concern in response to the Southwest project’s draft environmental impact statement. The city argued that any park and ride should be a shared parking facility north of Eighth Avenue North and First Street where it could benefit the downtown.
“The land around the Downtown Hopkins station is extremely valuable and the City of Hopkins is concerned that commuter parking will not add to the economic viability of the historic downtown,” the city’s comments stated.
The city wasn’t alone: A development study praised the downtown as a “huge asset” and recommended that planners “focus (a) park-and-ride on (a) downtown shared parking facility that can be leveraged to support minimally parked development in downtown Hopkins.”
The city has already secured some funding for downtown parking. Last year, Hopkins received $1 million in Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County grants to put toward a new parking ramp envisioned for the old Snyder Drug property at 15 Ninth Ave. N.
The Walker Parking study, paid for by the city’s parking fund, will help determine the best way forward. The study will take eight to 10 weeks to complete.
“It’s desperately needed, I think, before we move on with anything else,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Youakim.
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