By Ross Currier, Executive Director, NDDC, January 1, 2013
Downtown parking has been a long-discussed issue in Northfield. The earliest documented discussion that I have found is the 1978 University of Minnesota “Northfield River Corridor” study which identified parking as an important issue for the long-term economic vitality of the downtown.
In April of 1986, the Northfield City Council voted to create a Municipal Redevelopment District in downtown Northfield within which improvement projects could be funded with tax increment financing (TIF). The TIF district became known as Municipal District #4 and included parcels in both the Downtown Core and Downtown Fringe. There were three projects cited as priorities by the City Council: improving streets, repairing the river wall by the Ames Mill dam, and building a public parking lot.
The next major documented discussion was the 1998 “Present and Future Design Workshop” sponsored by the City of Northfield and the Economic Development Authority, which focused on infrastructure projects that would stimulate economic development. One of the products of this work was a map/drawing with several of the potential sites for downtown parking enhancement.
The most-cited document in the decades-long parking discussion has been the 2001 Walker Parking Study. This study identified, located, and quantified the parking demand in downtown and recommended specific projects to increase the parking supply. The following year, a collaboration between City staff, elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce, and the NDDC resulted in The Stolley Report, which provided local confirmation of the results of the Walker Parking Study.
In 2008, the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force recommended parking expansion as the top priority for the remaining TIF District proceeds. In 2012, after much additional discussion and analysis, the City Council directed City Staff to move forward with parking expansion for the site near 3rd and Washington Streets, south of the Northfield Public Library.
In addition, the 2012 City Council directed City Staff and the NDDC to develop recommendations for downtown parking management. The recommendations were to take a long-term view and include ideas beyond just physical infrastructure, such as process enhancements or additions, and consideration of non-motorized transportation.
The parking management work was added to the NDDC’s 2013 contract with the City Council. The Council prioritized stakeholder involvement and encouraged a variety of outreach methods. City staff and officials met with NDDC staff and officials in December to sketch out a work plan. The initial work, to begin in January, included identifying stakeholders, specifying means of communication, and the preliminary outline of a project schedule.