The free parking in downtown Newark has come to an end.
City council voted Monday to reinstate parking fees on Main Street, effective immediately.
The city made all parking free when the pandemic hit in late March. The move was intended to encourage locals to buy take-out meals from restaurants affected by the shutdown, but it was also practical – with demand for parking dramatically lower, it made more financial sense to furlough the parking enforcement officers.
In June, council reinstated parking fees in municipal lots, but continued to keep on-street parking free for up to 15 minutes to allow customers to pickup take-out orders.
Now, with restrictions on sit-down dining relaxed and at least some University of Delaware students set to return soon, City Manager Tom Coleman said it’s time to start charging for on-street parking again.
“The need for free 15-minute on-street parking is reduced, and staff feels regular parking operations should resume ahead of the return of students,” Coleman said. “While free parking would still be a benefit to businesses, it is staff’s opinion that the financial burden on the city from continued free parking on top of pandemic-related losses is too much to maintain through the fall.”
The city has already lost $700,000 in missed parking revenue. In total, the city has lost nearly $13 million in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic, most of which is related to lower utility sales.
UD has converted nearly all of its classes to online, with the only exception being labs, music courses and other classes that require in-person instruction. The dorms will be limited to students taking in-person classes, international students, students in field placements or clinical rotations and students who require housing due to hardship.
However, many of the students who live off-campus are expected to return to Newark this fall, and many are already here.
Still, though, UD’s decision to not reopen entirely is expected to have a negative effect both on downtown businesses and the city’s finances.