On the front counter of Hear Again Records on Southeast First Street sits petition sheets signed by hundreds of customers opposed to the city reinstating paid parking along many downtown streets.
Record shop owner Andrew Schaer said it wasn’t a tough sell getting people to sign them.
Even though the commission in February temporarily backed off its paid program that turned two-hour free spots into paid ones, the city is still considering the proposal.
Officials believe that too much of the street-side parking is unavailable because free spaces are less likely to turn over. 
A consultant who will be studying the paid parking proposal will be making a report to the City Commission in the fall, according to a memo from interim Gainesville City Manager Cynthia Curry to commissioners last month.
Schaer said people simply don’t want to have to pay to park when making a quick stop.
“I already know how it’s going to affect the business,” Schaer said. “They did a trial run for about three and a half weeks months back, and it just cut my revenue in half. It was horrible.”
He added that people just weren’t paying for the parking because they “thought it was a money grab.”
“I don’t know how the city would expect businesses to survive,” Schaer added. “People don’t want to come downtown and have to deal with paid parking to buy a record or get a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza.”
Last week, the city modified some of its parking rules for a handful of streets as part of the first phase of the downtown parking changes, receiving positive reviews from some business owners, employees and customers. Paid parking is slated to possibly be phase two of the city’s program.
Curry wrote in a memo to commissioners last month that the study will evaluate a return on investment and “impact analysis of conversation from free to paid parking.”
The study, she says, will also analyze the impact of new development, specifically the Hyatt Place Downtown Gainesville, Lot 10, Santa Fe Community College downtown campus and spaces now used for outdoor dining.
The consultant is expected to get insight from downtown merchants and research options.
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After hearing from outraged downtown business owners, the Gainesville City Commission voted in February to suspend implementation of the paid plan, which converted spaces that were two-hour free spaces into paid ones at $1 an hour.
Adding to the angst for some people was the fact that they were asked to pay for the parking by an app on their smartphones.
City officials had predicted the paid parking plan would help business owners by creating more turnover in spaces, pointing out that the curbside spaces were being gobbled up for hours by people who are not customers.
Although paid downtown parking is still an issue, the city has made some parking changes that kicked in this past week after getting advice from business owners.
“We worked very hard to make a lot of good changes here,” said Gainesville spokeswoman Rossana Passaniti.
A city press release stated that for the past several months, city staff has met with downtown business owners, employees and neighbors “to balance the desire for free downtown parking at all hours with the need to increase parking availability during business hours.”
The changes only are in effect from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with holidays being excluded.
On-street parking spaces on the east and west sides of Southeast First Street, between University Avenue and Southeast First Avenue, have been converted from two-hour free parking to 30-minute free parking.
The spaces are in front of the Alachua County Tax Collector’s office where people experience longer wait times to get vehicle tags and licenses renewed.
“This is designed to increase turnover of parking in those spaces, because the county of course wants its patrons to find a place to park in that one block area,” Passaniti said.
Often times, 30 minutes isn’t enough time for people to finish their business, according to several patrons walking around downtown on Thursday.
“Thirty minutes (free parking) is probably cutting it a little tight,” said local resident Max Krause. “You have a bunch of different (offices). I’ve been in there before where it takes five minutes, and then I’ve been in there an hour.”
He said the parking time limit should have been at least an hour instead.
“If you can’t get in and out of that building in an hour, then they’ve got problems,” he said.
The time limit people can park in city lots has been extended for parking in Gainesville’s lots 3, 4, 5 and 13, from two to four hours at a cost of 50 cents per hour.
Moreover, four parking spaces next to Loosey’s Downtown Gainesville on Southwest Second Street, near the Southwest Parking Garage, have been converted from 5-minute pick-up/drop-off spaces to two-hour free spaces. 
“In our conversations with local businesses they wanted more parking availability. These are good changes,” Passaniti said.
Several employees of Volta Coffee, Tea & Chocolate, at 48 SW Second St., said the longer time people can park in those free spaces the better, as customers sometimes feel rushed to get in and out.
Paid parking spaces on the first block of Southwest Fifth Terrace by The Continuum have been converted to 30-minute free parking, allowing customers to make a quick trip in and out of the Dunkin Donuts store on the bottom floor of the building without risking a traffic ticket.
Before, those spaces were two-hour spaces at 50 cents an hour.
Saudamini Gupta, who was a Dunkin’ customer on Thursday, said she supports the 30-minute free parking, though she doesn’t have a car. 
She said those 30-minute free spaces could even be a drop-off place for people waiting on a Door Dash delivery.
“I think it’s a good change,” she said. “Who wants to pay to park if you just want a doughnut?”
Another change that kicked in this week is that employees of downtown businesses may also purchase a discounted monthly permit of $20 for unlimited parking for 24 hours a day in the city’s Southwest Downtown Parking Garage at 105 SW Third St.

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