Changes coming to Downtown Yakima - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Changes coming to Downtown Yakima

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YAKIMA, Wash.-- Yakima's City Council met at city hall Tuesday to discuss some possible changes for downtown.

They're looking at some new proposals that will affect people visiting downtown, and business owners in the area.

City Manager, Tony O'Rourke is proposing several changes to the way downtown is run. He says the area could be better utilized to bring in more money for local businesses and the city.

One way he hopes to do that is by making a change to downtown parking.

"What we learned from our survey is we need to make downtown more accessible and parking friendly," said O'Rourke.

It's an issue that can discourage people from going downtown altogether. Where do you park?

Between two hour street parking, and confusing pay by the hour lots, many people just avoid the downtown area.

But now, the city manager wants to fix all that.  

"It's to make it a better environment, both for businesses but more importantly for the consumers to access downtown on a regular basis to encourage them to utilize our businesses," said O'Rourke.

O'Rourke is proposing several changes to parking lot rules. The biggest would change it from two hour free lots, to four hours free. Something local business owners think would bring a lot more people downtown to spend money.

"I think a lot of people, you know they get offered free parking wherever they go. The big major stores, the big block stores and so for downtown to be able to offer free parking, I think it's huge," said Joe Mann, owner of Ron's Coins and Collectibles.

O'Rourke does admit the change would cost the city about $60,000 a year in revenue, but he says bringing more people downtown would increase sales tax revenues to offset that loss.

Parking isn't the only change the city council is looking at.

They still want to make downtown safer and are looking at closing down an area of Fourth Street to be used for events and street fairs. Big changes they hope will go a long way toward revitalizing Yakima.