KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Drivers will soon be able to visit downtown Kalamazoo and save some money on parking, thanks to a new program.

Starting in late November, drivers will get 90 minutes of free access to public ramps downtown. Talk between the city and groups of downtown businesses, including Downtown Kalamazoo Shops, to institute the plan started as far back as 2018 but were delayed by the pandemic.

“There’s over 400 parking spots downtown. That’s a lot of parking and the area is about the same size as Crossroads Mall. So if you can park in that parking lot and walk to the mall, it’s the same concept for downtown,” explained Jessica Thompson, who serves as coordinator for Downtown Kalamazoo Shops. “When you go to different towns, you’re always looking for parking. You want to get to the closest or you want to get somewhere that’s going to be accessible for you.”

The program was originally going to be greenlighted for this coming mid-winter. But Thompson, who also owns the Bee Joyful Shop on Kalamazoo Mall, said the shops approached the downtown development authority with a better idea.

“We asked, ‘Would it be possible to open up these ramps (earlier)… to help all of the businesses, help our community to get down here?'” she said. “And they came back and they said, ‘Yes.'”

The city says the program will go into effect on Black Friday Nov. 24, and continue indefinitely. After the first 90 minutes, parkers will be charged $1.75 for the first hour and $1 every half hour thereafter, with a maximum of $10.

A city spokesman told News 8 in a statement that the program is in anticipation of parking meters to be installed on Kalamazoo Mall:

“The goal is to make parking a little easier for those visiting and shopping downtown and to encourage parkers to use the two public parking decks downtown to better balance the use of decks versus on-street parking,” he explained.