Midtown OKC merchants worry they will be stung by loss of free parking

A proposal to end free curbside parking in Midtown is facing some opposition from a handful of business owners who worry about losing employees and customers. 

Jason Ferbrache, director at EMBARK, unveiled a proposal Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Council that proposes installing parking meters in Midtown and Automobile Alley. 

The money made from new metered spaces would be split, with 60% of revenues going to the city and 40% going to new Midtown and Automobile Alley parking districts. 

More:Apartments, retail coming soon to ‘downtown of Midtown’ Oklahoma City

Proponents argue the parking meters will turn over to visitors parking spaces otherwise taken up by area employees. Owners of Hall’s Pizza Kitchen, Harvey Street Bakery, 405 Yoga, Ludivine, and R&J Lounge and Supper Club say the plan could hurt them at a time when they’re still recovering from the pandemic. 

The plan is based on a study commissioned by EMBARK in 2019 that shows Midtown has 15 surface parking lots the consultants identified that are less than 30% occupied in peak hours. The parking plan suggests at least 50 new parking meters can be added to spaces along Walker and Dewey avenues. 

Midtown has become a popular destination with a mix of restaurants, shops, entertainment, along with housing and offices. But parking is tight for venues like the Collective, shown in this photo.

‘I’ll have to leave this area’

Russ Johnson, owner of R&J and Ludivine, said he learned about the proposal earlier this month. He and others argue Midtown, unlike Automobile Alley, is not set up for eliminating free parking for employees and customers. 

“At a time when restaurants and small businesses are already struggling and are at the tail end of the pandemic, and we’re just trying to get back on our feet, this is kicking us when we’re down,” Johnson said. “It’s all based on this study done in 2019. Don’t we think the world has changed between 2019 and now? The whole premise needs to be re-examined.” 

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