Enticing shoppers with free parking

Annapolis continues a holiday season tradition

December 07, 2003|By Stephanie Tracy | Stephanie Tracy,SUN STAFF

Scenes of the season in historic Annapolis: lights in the windows, garlands and bows around 18th-century doorways - and free parking for harried holiday shoppers.

In an effort to keep the downtown shopping district competitive with its shopping mall rivals, the city of Annapolis has continued its decade-old tradition of free parking this year. Drivers may park in metered spaces in Annapolis free through Jan. 5.

The free, two-hour parking applies only to metered spaces and does not affect parking garages or the parking regulations on residential streets, a police spokesman said.

"I love the free parking," said Jerry Barbacano, an Edgewater resident who found a parking space on Main Street on Friday afternoon. "I'm just glad to get a space. I hope they do it every year."

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said the eased parking restrictions are as much about competition as community spirit.

"We're a small city ringed by huge shopping centers that don't charge for parking, so giving shoppers and businesses free parking encourages people to come downtown to shop," Moyer said.

Other historic downtown areas and smaller shopping districts also try to ease parking.

Baltimore County gave shoppers free parking in all metered spaces and county garages the Friday after Thanksgiving. The parking holiday will go into effect again in Baltimore County Dec. 22-24 after 4 p.m. each day. The Ellicott City historic district offers a trolley service from parking areas to shops.

Parking was free in Annapolis in the Hillman and Gotts Court parking garages and the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium during the annual Midnight Madness shopping extravaganza Thursday night. Businesses extend their hours to midnight during that event, which includes caroling and a visit from Santa.

Annapolis also offers free parking during the city's First Night New Year's celebrations.

Many merchants in the historic Annapolis district are enthusiastic about the adjusted parking regulations.

"It eases the minds of shoppers when they know they don't have to rush out to feed the meters," said Cris Oliphant, a sales associate at Annapolis Maritime Art Gallery Ltd. at City Dock.

Some people said the city could do more.

Alice Roscher and Beverly Fossum, sales associates at Christmas Spirit on Main Street, said the two-hour free parking brings people downtown but that shoppers are concerned about moving their cars every two hours to avoid fines.

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