Parking relief coming to downtown Santa Fe

In an effort to attract cashin-hand Santa Feans to the downtown area during the holiday season, city officials announced this week that, from now until Christmas, weekend parking will be free at the new Santa Fe Community Convention Center and Santa Fe Railyard parking garages.

Along with local businesses and business advocacy groups, the city is participating in December promotions to increase local spending. Mayor David Coss will proclaim December “Buy Local Month” during a holiday celebration today on the Plaza, according to a press release. That event, scheduled 5-7 p.m., will also feature a tree-lighting, farolitos, holiday music and a visit from Santa.

When asked about the free parking, Coss said, “I think it’s a great idea. I think we’re sending a message out: ‘Come on downtown.’ ”

The convention center garage, off Federal Place, will offer free parking from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, while no-charge hours at the railyard garage will be from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and all day on Sundays.

City Councilor Rosemary Romero said the idea for free weekend holiday parking came out of a Downtown Merchants Association meeting attended by herself, Coss and other city councilors in October.

It’s a “good step in the right direction,” she said

“It’s really exciting that we could find a way to get people in the downtown area,” Romero said.

Santa Fe has been feeling the sting of a troubled national economic climate, and many retailers have reported declining sales numbers. Hotel occupancy has also decreased, with numbers in October more than 10 percent less than they were in the previous year.

A decline in the gross receipts tax — essentially a sales tax — could mean as much as a $5 million shortfall in the city’s budget for the current fiscal year, city officials have said.

The free parking should also bolster efforts to promote the new parking garages, both of which opened a few months ago but have attracted what some say are lower-than-expected numbers.

“We get multiple benefits out of doing this,” Coss noted.

As part of an effort to boost local businesses, the Santa Fe Alliance has just printed its 2009 guide, which is available at its office, 320 Aztec St.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce has a list of member businesses on its web site: www.santafechamber.com.

by Kiera Hay • Journal Santa Fe

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