Downtown Rochester offers free parking through Labor Day weekend

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 28, 2020


ROCHESTER — In an effort to help boost economic recovery in downtown Rochester, the city is offering free parking through Labor Day weekend.

Downtown Development Authority Director Kristi Trevarrow said the free parking downtown has been available since the end of March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan.

“We wanted to remove any barriers that anyone might feel coming downtown. When this first started, we weren’t sure how long quarantine was going to go — we didn’t know a lot of things — but we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to be able to come downtown and not have to worry about having extra change on them or anything like that. We just thought it was something small that we could do and it could make a big impact, help the businesses and help the community, as well,” she said.

Rochester City Councilman Mark Albrecht said not many people were aware of the free parking until the Rochester DDA posted signs in late June, after the City Council decided to extend the service through Sept. 7 at 11:59 p.m.

“We’ve been doing this for months in the COVID rebound,” Albrecht said.

The DDA has since placed a “free parking” banner on each of the parking decks, as well as stake signs at the entrances of every municipal parking lot downtown.

Rochester City Manager Blaine Wing said the financial impact of offering free parking in the city is approximately $13,000 per week, but the DDA has agreed to pay the debt service and a few other costs, thus covering more than 50% of the lost revenue through September.

“We are contributing an average of about $90,000 a month (out of our fund balance) to the city to help offset their costs with allowing the businesses to have free parking. So it’s free parking everywhere in town,” Trevarrow explained.

That still leaves the lost revenue from users, which Blaine said the city’s parking fund is covering.

“Working with our finance staff, all the way through the end of September would have really put a financial challenge for us on our parking revolving fund, so we decided to end on Labor Day weekend,” he said.

Councilwoman Amanda Harrison Keighley said that, although she feels “very uncomfortable” spending any of the city’s money right now, this cause seems “really important.”

“I think it’s a great driver to bring people downtown, and it’s a show of goodwill on our part. We want to help support our community and our businesses, and this is a great way to do this,” Harrison Keighley said.

Councilwoman Nancy Salvia agreed, saying free parking is “great for the businesses and the residents.”

Councilwoman Ann Peterson said the city still needs to plan for the future.

“I do think we need to start looking at another option to make sure this gets paid in the future, because we were just very lucky that the (DDA) happened to have the money there to be able to help out,” she said.

For more information about the Rochester DDA, call (248) 656-0060 or visit