by Mandy Moran Froemming
Parking in downtown Anoka is a perennial source of concern and discussion for city leaders, downtown business owners and shoppers.
But one kind of extended parking that is welcome is overnight stays in city parking lots and ramps.
As the city’s entertainment district continues to do a thriving business, Anoka Police Chief Phil Johanson said the police department is happy to see people are leaving their cars parked for the night.
According to Johanson, more and more people are either using taxi service or getting a ride home with a sober driver and leaving their vehicles downtown overnight.
“We’re happy with that, with having six or seven bars in the downtown, that people are parking their cars and getting a ride with a taxi or a friend rather than driving intoxicated,” said Johanson.
Last month the Anoka City Council gave its final approval to eliminate a registration requirement, and fee, for taxis operating in the city.
Johanson said the cab service plays a big role in public safety.
But overnight parking is not welcome everywhere in downtown Anoka.
Recently some late-evening visitors to downtown Anoka were surprised to find vehicles were being towed from the Wells Fargo parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue.
Wells Fargo has decided to start enforcing its parking policy, which prohibits parking for anyone not doing business at the Wells Fargo store.
“We were hearing from our customers about their inability to find a parking spot to come in and do business at our store,” said Peggy Gunn of Wells Fargo Corporate Communications.
Gunn said Wells Fargo’s first priority is making sure its customers have adequate parking opportunities and the enforcement is to specifically address problems at the Anoka Wells Fargo location.
“We were finding that people were parking in our lot, not to do business in our store,” said Gunn.
Sometimes those people were even leaving their vehicles overnight. Wells Fargo has 41 spaces available for its customers.
The problem had been escalating, particularly Thursday through Sunday – busy times for local restaurants and bars, according to Gunn.
New signage prohibiting parking for anyone not doing business at Wells Fargo went up in early February. This policy will be enforced during the day and night, although Gunn did not share how many vehicles have been towed from the lot so far.
Johanson said on the first weekend Wells Fargo started to enforce its parking policy, officers did hear from a few people who returned to the lot to find their vehicle missing.
This is the first time he has heard of vehicles being towed from downtown Anoka for parking violations, he said.
Pete Turok said downtown parking has always been an issue, for one reason or another, during the 25 years he has been the executive director of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce.
But the construction of the parking ramp at the corner of Second Avenue and Jackson Street has alleviated many of the issues, he said.
“In terms of people screaming that there isn’t enough parking, I just don’t hear it,” said Turok on the availability of parking later in the evening.
He is a 20-year member and past chairman of the city’s Parking Advisory Board.
“I don’t think it’s that people need to park at Wells Fargo, but they always have because it is convenient,” said Turok.
He said he isn’t aware of any other businesses having vehicles towed, although private parking spaces in downtown are minimal.
It is not the city of Anoka’s policy to tow vehicles. Instead, the city’s parking enforcement officers issue tickets and fine drivers who violate the rules.
Time limits are enforced on city streets, lots and ramps between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“The goal of the Parking Advisory Board is that by monitoring the downtown we’re making parking available to customers,” said Johanson. “It’s to prevent all-day parking by employees.”
Two- and three-hour daytime parking is available in city-owned parking lots around city hall, in several lots on the south side of Main Street, as well as in the parking ramps at Second and Jackson, as well as off Monroe Street, between First and Second avenues. Overnight parking is not permitted on any city streets between 2 and 6 a.m.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]