NORMAN — The free downtown parking lot on Gray Street won’t be free much longer, but, hopefully, more parking will be available for downtown shoppers.
New technology to be used at the parking lot includes multi-space parking meters and underground sensors. The sensors will provide data on use patterns.
A building owned by the city will be demolished and the area paved to allow for 49 additional parking spaces. The improved lot is expected to be operational by the end of the year.
The change in plans for the parking lot resulted from input by the Norman Downtown Association. Based on the downtown merchants’ request, the first hour of parking will be free and the rate will be 25 cents for each hour after that.
The meters will take credit cards, tokens and cell phone payments. The cell phone payment method will allow customers who are shopping or dining downtown to extend their stay without having to return to the parking lot.
“It doesn’t take paper money,” City Engineer Angelo Lombardo said. “That’s the only thing it doesn’t do, but it does take tokens.”
The Norman Downtowners Association will pay the $100,000 cost of the meter system. The city will repay that amount using revenue generated by the parking fees collected over time at zero percent interest.
The demolition portion of the project will also cost $100,000. That will be paid by the city out of the capital improvement budget.
Lombardo said the system is easy to reprogram if the management strategy changes and needs to allow a rate increase, for example.
The hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays. That could be expanded in the future based on use patterns and need.
The plan was approved in an 8-1 vote by the city council. Voting against was Council member Dave Spaulding.
Joy Hampton 366-3539 jhampton@ normantranscript.com