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The Carletonian

Downtown Northfield parking problems and changes

Mallory Atack

The Northfield City Council recently discussed new plans to alter downtown parking, with a company called Interstate Parking Company at the helm.

In July, the Northfield City Council met to discuss the findings from a parking study completed by consulting firm CHS in 2022. The study determined that it would be a good idea for Northfield to consider implementing a managed parking solution or to conduct another study to identify how to effectively manage parking in and around downtown Northfield.

On Oct. 10, Interstate Parking CEO Tony Janoweic met with Northfield’s City Council and explained how his company could change parking in downtown Northfield.

As a result of this determination, Northfield City Council met with Interstate Parking Company, and Janoweic presented ways that his company could help Northfield improve its downtown parking.

The reasons why Northfield decided changes needed to be made about parking had to do with concerns from business owners downtown, who have claimed that they are losing business because of an inability for customers to park.

There is currently a plan for a 280-space parking complex on the corner of 5th and Washington, though there is also a plan to convert 50 parking spaces along the Cannon River on Water Street into green space.

During his presentation to the council, Janoweic displayed a map illustrating the different sections of Northfield’s downtown area, with the “retail high demand zone” being the section of Division Street between 2nd and 6th streets. Janoweic argued that at any time, there should be at least a couple of spaces open on each block, but according to him, “that’s not happening right now.” 

Additionally, the “retail low demand zones” directly border what Janoweic labeled as “residential zones,” so when parking in those retail areas gets packed, Janoweic estimated that many residential areas become clogged with overflow parking from the retail areas, another concern that he said Interstate Parking would attempt to address.

Currently, Northfield has worked to ensure that parking is done in an orderly manner. As Carleton student Bea Culligan ’26 stated, “The city and campus are both pretty strict about enforcing parking


 rules, so I’ve never parked there overnight or when I’m not doing something in town.” 

Another concern that Interstate Parking discussed with downtown Northfield’s parking was that many ideal parking spots for customers were taken by employees parking there, which becomes detrimental for the businesses. As a solution, Janoweic improved a lot off of Main Street and provided the employees with permits, and the businesses benefited financially.

One described option from Janoweic is called shared parking. Shared parking, as described by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, “is a land use/development strategy that optimizes parking capacity” by opening privately-owned spaces for public use, though typically with a fee. In Northfield, this would look like the businesses downtown opening up street parking to the public, with paid parking, permits and other such options. The new parking system would have scannable QR code signs through which people could pay for spaces and reserve times, replacing physical parking meters.

Not all Northfield citizens are in favor of the new parking plans. As one Facebook user stated on the Concerned Citizens of Northfield, Minnesota group, “Parking downtown is just terrible and… the city’s future plans will make it a disaster.”

Specifically, the city’s plan to turn parking spaces on Water Street into a green space has become controversial, with one citizen stating on Facebook, “They don’t need those dumb parklets when we already have a parking problem downtown.” 

Similarly to the city’s ongoing plan to create more bike lanes in other parts of Northfield, Northfield citizens have raised concerns about the financial costs of the changes. One citizen compared the two plans, saying that the City Council has not listened to Northfield residents on either issue: “Same as the ‘extensive’ raised bike lane barrier open houses/listening sessions? You ignored neighborhood input and pushed it through anyway.”

One possible issue for discussion is the plan to monetize parking, making it more expensive for consumers and residents. However, Janoweic assured the council during his presentation that parking fees would be completely dependent on the city’s opinions and needs. 

Additionally, mobility issues became a topic of discussion, with Janoweic stating that his company would work to help those with disabilities, whether they had official disability placards or not. However, on Facebook, people have voiced concerns that taking out the parking on Water Street will make it more difficult for those with mobility issues to park closest to their destination. 

Carleton students, specifically those with cars on campus, also have thoughts on the matter. As Culligan said, “I see both sides of the debate over parking. I understand the want for more spots, but I also think it’s important to preserve the small-town feel of Northfield and think it could do without any massive parking eyesores.” 

However, not all of the general public are concerned with the possible new parking plans. As another user stated on Facebook, “The importance of parking and the need to truly address it in a thoughtful and intentional manner has been discussed many, many times by staff and council.” 

Whether or not the general public is in support of the new parking plans, Northfield is already planning the green space and removal of parking spaces on Water Street, and the added parking complex on the corner of 5th and Washington. However, their decision to change the other aspects of street parking in downtown Northfield at the suggestion of the Interstate Parking Company is yet to be determined, though altered parking situations within upcoming months are likely to occur.

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