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High-priced parking lots popping up across Louisville's popular neighborhoods

“Now that we found out the price of that parking lot, we kind of want to go somewhere else now."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — You've likely seen an increase of big, shiny, dark blue signs around parking lots in Louisville's hottest neighborhoods.

“When I see no pricing at all, I always think they’re trying to hide something," Kyle Riegle said, who pulled into a Parking Management Company (PMC) lot at 300 E. Main St. recently.

He scanned a QR code, filled out his information, only to find the lot cost more than $20 after tax for a minimum two hours of parking.

"We’re gonna be on our way," he said, before pulling his car out of the lot and into a metered space, which cost him $2.35 for one hour.

Credit: Travis Breese
The PMC lot at the corner of Baxter Ave. and Broadway includes a vacant gas station, pump bay and gas price sign from a previous land use.

Expensive parking lots

All city-owned Parking Authority River City (PARC) garages offer $1 for 0-30 minutes, $3 for 30-60 minutes and $6 for 1-2 hours. Riverside Parking, a private company, offers all-day flat rates at many of its lots for $7-10.

“You have to pay $20 for that before you can even explore the city, which is what we’re trying to do," Riegle's girlfriend Chelsea Frederick said.

PMC is a Nashville company that does hotel valet service, commercial lots and some medical centers. The company first entered Louisville in 2018, at a downtown hotel.

As of Sept. 19, a company spokesperson said PMC manages 22 commercial lots in Louisville, along with 10 hotels and medical centers. The company is still expanding, with its most recent Louisville lot opening in late August. 

The lots range in price and minimum amount of time. A company spokesperson said generally, pricing begins around $5 for an hour or two of parking. Eighty percent of the lots offer a one hour option, "which is comparable to market standards," they added. 

"Pricing rates are determined by the location and parking capacity in the area. Our goal is to set pricing in order to increase space turnover and maximize the number of spaces available for those who need them," a PMC spokesperson said. "Surge pricing can apply when lots reach certain levels of occupancy. We monitor this process through our technology, ensuring we continue to encourage space turnover and availability."

PMC generally does not purchase land, but rather reaches an agreement with a landowner to manage the lot.

FOCUS checked the lowest price and time available at four PMC parking lots across the city. Here's what we found:

Credit: WHAS11
A map of four PMC lots FOCUS checked prices at, with the average price being $13.25, not $5 like the company said.

After this map was made, FOCUS checked a fifth lot on East Witherspoon Street, near Louisville Slugger Field for pricing and also found it costs $20.14 for a minimum of two hours of parking.

Why are there so many?

If the prices are higher than other parking options, and customers are likely to avoid the lots, then why are so many PMC lots popping up in the Metro?

"I don't think it's a money issue. I just can't see it," Perry Doyle, a Highlands bar owner, said.

Doyle said he and a friend were picking up trash from the parking lot at 1041 Goss Ave., right across from Hauck's Corner, one morning in mid-July. He said a few days later, the PMC signs went up.

"The thought of keeping that clean probably slipped someone's mind," Doyle said. "These guys are probably tired of pulling in Monday morning and seeing their lot disrespected."

The lot is owned by the adjacent Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger law firm and one of the partners confirmed Doyle's suspicions.

Credit: Travis Breese
Perry Doyle stands in front of the PMC lot at 1041 Goss Ave. Doyle says he has seen the lot be disrespected, and has picked up trash in it before.

Attorney Will Nefzger told FOCUS the law firm's parking lot had previously been private, only to be used by the firm's employees and clients.

"However, as one of the only, and definitely largest, lots in Germantown," Nefzger said over email. "The general public and even employees of neighboring businesses routinely parked in our lot."

He said they had signs telling people it was a private lot, but they were often ignored. Nefzger also said the firm tried to negotiate a plan with neighboring businesses to collectively monitor the lot but it fell through. 

Credit: Travis Breese
Signs show the transition from private parking to monitored public parking at Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger law firm.

The lot is now open to the public, if they pay, and is free to employees and clients of his law firm and an adjoining business through validation with PMC.

"Thus far, we are very pleased with PMC. Their terms are very straightforward and reasonable, they are very responsive with any questions," Nefzger said. "As for charges, we rely on PMC’s expertise and knowledge for that."

Parking confusion

PMC said it provides "all locations with validation signage, instructing the guest how to be a validated parker," but FOCUS found confusion among some business owners on how the process works.

A parking lot where that confusion is evident is the one behind Haraz Coffee House in the Highlands. There are QR code signs, signs reserving two spots for 15 trips to the post office, and signs saying "Parking for USPS, Epiphany and Haraz only." 

There are no signs telling customers how to get their first hour free. Amer "AJ" Almassudi, owner of both Haraz locations, said everything should have been more clearly defined.

"It should have been more direct, like how the process works and relaying the pricing of the parking space," Almassudi said.

The correct way to get the first hour free is to go into Haraz and scan their QR code on the counter. If you pay outside first and then scan the inside code, it will only add a third hour to your time. There are no signs explaining that.

Credit: Travis Breese
This is what parkers would see if they pay outside first at 1525 Highland Ave., and then scan the inside QR code and enter their plate info.

Almassudi said the up front price of $9.28 for two hours, the confusion around validation, and the fear of getting towed has decreased business a bit.

“The negative is customers are afraid of adding that to their coffee charge. So, basically, if they’re coming to have a coffee, they’re not planning to pay an additional $7-10 for parking. So it does take away a little bit," he said.

Almassudi and the property owner Stephen Owen both said it was very common --prior to PMC's arrival-- for people not shopping at the three adjoining businesses to park their cars there for 24-48 hours, and they needed a solution so employees and paying customers had a place to park.

“Timing was perfect for them to come in," Almassudi said. “People that are parking there are actually utilizing the area that they’re going for.”

'You can't blame them.'

PMC says it has 150 lot ambassadors and valets in Louisville. The lot ambassadors are responsible for checking for pay compliance, as well as cleaning the lots. FOCUS did not see one ambassador while visiting five lots across several days.

"Our ultimate goal is to avoid punitive measures like towing and fines. We’ve seen success in transforming unpaid parkers through the combination of ambassador education, the conversion card and PMC Conversion, which is our accompanying proprietary digital payment platform," a company spokesperson said.

There clearly are property owners in Louisville who feel their private parking lots are not being respected. They see PMC as a solution to invite the public onto their lots on their terms, and do it in a controllable way.

“There is maintenance that needs to be done and taken care of. And you can’t blame them, they paid premium prices for those parking lots as well," Almassudi said.

Still, to those visiting from out of town, and locals trying to visit their favorite spots, the lots feel like an ambush, and one they are going to avoid at all costs.

“Now that we found out the price of that parking lot, we kind of want to go somewhere else now," another driver, Chelsea Frederick, said at the 300 E. Main lot. “I feel like if it was cheaper, more people would actually come in and travel to places here."

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