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Switch to paid parking lots in Old Colorado City worrying businesses, city generating thousands of dollars

Posted at 1:45 PM, Sep 22, 2023

OLD COLORADO CITY — What were once free parking lots in Old Colorado City are now paid lots. The change happened a few months ago and created controversy among some businesses and locals who shop there.

Scott Lee, the City of Colorado Springs Parking Enterprise Director, said the city parks department, which previously owned the lots, could not afford the necessary repaving of the lots. He said the department transferred ownership to the city's parking enterprise which turned the lots into paid parking to fund the repairs. The cost to park in the lots is $1.25 per hour.

Lee said between July and August 2023 the city has generated around $82,000 in revenue from parking fees from the four lots. Last year during the same months when there was only one paid lot, Lee said the city generated around $7,000. He said the large increase in revenue is partly due to people purchasing multiple monthly parking permits at one time.

Lee said crews finished repaving and repainting the lines in all four lots this spring, which he said cost around $250,000.

“The city cares about Old Colorado City and we’re willing to put some resources into it well beyond what we’re going to get out of it for quite some time. But that’s alright because they [residents and businesses] felt for many years that we haven’t shown them the love that they deserve," said Lee.

Some businesses in Old Colorado City said they continue to worry about losing customers with the switch to paid parking this year. Lexi Hazelwood, Assistant Manager at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, said the store has not lost business from tourists but said she is worried about losing locals later in the season.

"I think that we'll really start to see more around the holidays on how it's affecting everything because that's where we get most of our locals is our holiday business," she said.

Employees at Thunder and Buttons Restaurant and Bar said they have lost some regulars who refuse to pay for parking.

"We want people to hang out all day on the Westside and go from one restaurant to the next and shop between the two. We don't want them to have to pay to park and then leave," said employee Nina Driver.

The two businesses also expressed concerns about employees having to pay for parking. The city's parking enterprise said businesses can purchase $50 monthly parking passes for employees which can be transferred between one another when switching shifts.

"It's hard to not be frustrated whenever you feel like you're being charged to work," said Hazelwood. "I think that like at the very least, employees over here could be given parking without a second thought."

She said the shop decided to purchase monthly permits for employees in a separate private lot that is cheaper than the city lots. She said Old Colorado City was one of the only shopping areas nearby that had free parking and now that incentive for customers is gone.

Lee said the revenue from the paid lots goes into a larger fund that pays for parking-related services, like the repaving of the four lots. Their next project is to replace a retaining wall near one of the parking lots between Colorado Avenue and Pikes Peak Avenue in early 2024, which he said will cost around a million dollars.
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