Business owners uneasy about paid parking in downtown Dunedin

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-12 17:38:28-05

Snowbirds are back and this winter, one popular destination has made a major change. The city of Dunedin is now charging for parking downtown, where it used to be free.





City officials say paid parking is necessary, but not all business owners are on board.

The new parking meters in downtown Dunedin seem to be confusing some visitors, who say they didn't know that now you have to pay.

"I wouldn't have known if you wouldn't have said, I just took it for granted," one man visiting from Canada said.

Foot traffic is certainly not taken for granted, now that parking comes with a price tag.

"Maybe they'll come for a meal but they won't walk around to shop, or they'll walk around and shop but they won't stay for lunch, when they used to do both," Joy Hillman, owner of Mirabella Fashions said.

Hillman said customers aren't used to paying for parking, and despite a free daytime lot nearby, she's noticed a hit to her business.

"My weekends, which is all paid parking on weekends, have definitely gone down, Sundays for me have gone down significantly, probably 50 to 60 percent," Hillman said.

One parking lot is free until 6 p.m. during the week and is paid on the evenings and weekends. That's what presents a challenge for many restaurants, relying on that evening traffic.

"We want to make sure that we get as many visitors as we can," James Keene, owner of Pisces Sushi and Global Bistro, said.

Keene said his restaurant is new to downtown and paid parking was a bit of a shock, but people need to adjust.

"If you go to other parts of Pinellas, Tampa, you know there's paid parking everywhere, I think people just have to get used to change," he said.

Now some business owners hope the city will make the parking prices and hours consistent, both on the street and in lots, to keep Dunedin's charm in tact.

"Without the merchants and the restaurants and the people walking around downtown, Dunedin wouldn't be what it is today," Hillman said.

Paid parking will be discussed at the next commission meeting January 26, along with financial information and any changes based on public feedback.