Downtown Lewes parking meters went online June 1 in conjunction with Phase 1 of Delaware’s reopening, but it didn’t quite go as planned.
On June 2, mayor and city council changed the approach, now allowing free parking in all downtown spaces and lots until noon. The measure will be in place until at least June 15. City officials will monitor how it goes the next two weeks before making a decision on whether to extend it. Parking at the beach will not change.
“This will allow locals to to come down to shop and not have to pay for parking in the morning hours,” said City Manager Ann Marie Townshend.
Downtown meters will be in effect from noon to 8 p.m. at a rate of $1 per hour. A 50-cent convenience charge is added on for credit card transactions at meters.
A meeting with downtown merchants June 1 resulted in the new plan, which was unanimously supported by business owners. The goal is to boost the local economy, said Lewes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betsy Reamer.
“They’ve been shut down for almost three months,” she said. “They feel that if there was a concession made to meters in the morning that Lewes would be able to attract more business and jump-start the economy.”
The initial approach was to offer free parking at nearly all single-head metered parking spaces on Front, Second, Third and Market streets, but limit it to a 15-minute maximum for curbside pickup while charging regularly for parking at all city lots at 1812 Park, Canalfront Park and Third Street.
“We figured out late morning [June 1] that it was not successful,” Townshend said. “Most of the people who came downtown wanted to walk around and shop, and they thought 15 minutes was ridiculous.”
Townshend defended the initial plan.
“The city, chamber, businesses didn’t know what the customers would want when they finally did come out,” she said. “What we found, literally before noon, was that it was not working.”
City council also unanimously supported another idea from downtown merchants to display merchandise on the sidewalk outside their shops. Reamer said it encourages people to go inside.
“This was a reaction to studies we’ve seen that people are feeling afraid to go into small, enclosed spaces, and many of our shops are in that category,” Reamer said.
By allowing shops to have some merchandise outside, she said, it may entice hesitant shoppers to enter the store to see what else is available.
Council approved outdoor displays until June 15, and will revisit the topic just prior to determine if it needs to be extended.
Parking supervisor reminder
Parking Supervisor Dennis Crawford reminds visitors that all letters and numbers of a license plate must be entered when parking, including the PC on many Delaware license plates. Head-in parking only is allowed at the beaches and in the city’s downtown parking lots and single spaces. He also said ParkMobile recently updated its app to easier select the vehicle the user is driving that day.
Prior to paying to park, a list of vehicles previously used in ParkMobile appears at the bottom of the screen. At the checkout screen, users have another opportunity to change the vehicle if the wrong vehicle was selected initially.