Drivers who pull into downtown Kent's parking deck after it opens next month might get a free ride, at least for a while.
Bryan Smith, director of planning for the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority, the agency overseeing the construction of the Kent Central Gateway, said PARTA has not yet completed the lengthy process of purchasing credit card machines and a gate arm for the parking deck. When the 365-space facility opens for public parking at a not yet determined date in March, Smith said its a strong possibility parking will be free for a short time.
"What that would do is give folks an opportunity to get used to using the deck and figure out how it works ... without having to pay for it at the very beginning," Smith said.
The free trial period, which could last for a month, would end when PARTA installs the credit card machines and gate arm. Smith stressed that free parking at the $26 million facility at the corner of Erie and DePeyster streets would be a temporary benefit, if implemented.
"We will absolutely be charging to park at the deck and we have always planned to do that," Smith said. "As we're wrapping up the construction this is part of the (facility) we needed to buy, we just haven't gotten to it yet."
PARTA has hired a consultant to finalize the details of what rates people will pay to park at the deck for different amounts of time, but those rates have not been announced yet.
Multiple downtown businesses have expressed interest in purchasing spots in the deck for employees, but PARTA cannot guarantee spots for groups or individuals before the deck is open because it is a public project.
While the parking deck section of the transit center will open next month, operations at the bus depot and retail space in the structure will take longer to commence.
Smith said buses will be moving in and out of the transit center by fall semester at Kent State University after improvement work on DePeyster and Erie streets and Haymaker Parkway is completed. No tenants have been announced for the center's retail spaces yet.
"We've been focused on getting construction finished on the parking and transit sections," Smith said.
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