Blog: 5 tips to park like a pro in Downtown Fort Wayne

When it comes to parking in Downtown Fort Wayne, it can sometimes feel confusing or difficult to find a spot. Part of the challenge is simply planning ahead, knowing where to look, and familiarizing yourself with the system.

As weekly Downtown visitors, our team at Input Fort Wayne has a few insiders’ tips that might make your next trip to the city center less stressful and help you answer that ever-daunting question: But where am I going to park?

Parking garages can be a space-efficient solution to parking Downtown.

Tip 1: Give yourself time. 

If you’re going Downtown, you’re probably going to have to get out and walk. That’s part of what being in a city center is all about—experiencing it by foot! So give yourself time to take it in.

We recommend leaving an extra 10 minutes in your schedule to allow time to find a parking spot and then walk from your meter or garage to your destination. This will ease the need to rush, and who knows, on that walk from your car to your meeting, you might just discover a bodega (like Revitalize Health Bar) with amazing smoothies, or have time to check out a new shop or a piece of public art. Experiencing Downtown is about the journey; not the destination.

Tip 2: Consider how long are you planning to be Downtown. 

This is important to ask yourself when you’re setting out. If you’re planning a quick trip of two hours or less, parking at a street meter is likely your best bet. If you think you’ll be Downtown longer than two hours, you should probably opt for a parking lot or garage instead.

The Civic Center garage at 1021 S. Calhoun St.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about each of these options.

Tip 3: Choose a meter that meets your needs.

City Clerk Lana Keesling, who manages Fort Wayne’s street meter system, says there are 800 meters Downtown, including 25 handicap-accessible spaces. Street meters are located on most streets, and they charge a flat rate of $1 an hour. Plus, the city only charges for meters Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so if you’re visiting on a night or weekend, the meters are free!

There are 800 street meters Downtown, including 25 accessible or handicapped spots.

What if you’re making a really quick trip? If you’re new to town and stopping by Visit Fort Wayne, you’ll find free 15-minute meters outside their location. Grabbing something fast, like Jimmy Johns, or cash at the ATM at Lake City Bank at Skyline Plaza? You’ll find 15-minute or 30-minute meters at these spots, too.

There are 800 street meters Downtown, including 25 accessible or handicapped spots. 

So how long can you stay at a meter? It depends on where you park. All of Downtown Fort Wayne’s street meters have different time limits, denoted on signs and the meters themselves. Time limits range from 15 minutes to two hours. You can only pay (by coin or card) up to this allotted amount. This is intended to keep meter spots open for local shops and restaurants that depend on a constant turnover of cars, Keesling says.

In the most popular spots closest to restaurants and shops, you’ll find one-hour meters. In less trafficked areas, you’ll find two-hour meters. If you overstay your welcome, you’ll probably come back to a parking ticket under your windshield wiper, costing you $10.

Parking tickets for overstaying your welcome at meters generally cost $10.

Tip 4: Get to know the parking lot and garage system.

If you want to stay Downtown longer than two hours, that’s where the city’s parking lots and garages come into play. Downtown Fort Wayne partners with Visit Fort Wayne and several other Downtown entities to produce a free printable parking map of Downtown, detailing where you can find many of the lots and garages. (There are currently 25!) 

Frank Howard, Director of Operations for Downtown Fort Wayne, pulls up free, printable Downtown parking maps on his computer.

Checking this map can take some of the guesswork out of the parking equation. It even lists prices and hours for each lot or garage. Most charge $1 an hour with a daily max of less than $10, and special rates for events, like Three Rivers Festival. Plus, the map is updated each month according to various events, road closures, and other factors that affect parking Downtown. 

Is there a parking app where you can see vacancies in real time? Not yet, but it’s on the way, at least for the city-owned garages, says Keith Thornton, Community Development Manager for the City of Fort Wayne.

Keith Thornton, Community Development Manager for the City of Fort Wayne, oversees parking garages and contracts for the Redevelopment Commission.

Tip 5: Practice, and explore your options.

So where are the best places to park Downtown? It really depends on where you’re going, but generally speaking, there are a few lots that have special perks. For instance, the new 950-spot parking garage inside the Riverfront at Promenade (across from Promenade Park) is weather-controlled, so you won’t have to worry about icy windshields during those cold Indiana winters. 

If you’re going to The Landing, we recommend the Riverfront at Promenade (#25 on the map) or the Plaza Garage at 515 S. Calhoun St. (#8). You can also access scan-to-pay parking under the railroad underpass, where there’s a new mural in progress, called The Unity Mural, by Art This Way.

A new Art This Way project, called The Unity Mural, is currently being created steps away from The Landing at the railroad underpass near Harrison and Dock streets.

Want skyline photos or a great view of Downtown fireworks displays? The City Center garage at 814 S. Calhoun St. is ideal for that. Or the Town Center garage at 828 S. Clinton St. (#9). Just drive all the way up. If you’re doing a photoshoot, make a day of it by grabbing a drink at Fortezza Coffee across the street, and exploring the Porch Off Calhoun and the alleyway murals of Art This Way. There are so many photo opps in this area! (Check out a full public art map here.)

What was once an alley, is now an active space.

Did you know: If you’re going to the Allen County Public Library’s Main Branch, AND you have a library card, you don’t have to pay for parking? Just scan your library card at the pay station when you leave, and you’re good to go! The library has three lots: One underneath its building at 900 Library Plz., one at 219 W. Wayne St. (#16), and one at 926 S. Harrison St. (#14).

One of three parking lots for the Allen County Public Library at 926 S. Harrison St.

Tip 6: Ask around, and find what works for you.

One of the best ways to find parking Downtown is to ask about it directly when you’re planning a meeting, outing, or event. Some restaurants, like Nawa Asian Fusion, for example, offer surface lots at their locations that you might not know about. (If you’re visiting the restaurant, you can use the lot by pressing a button at the entrance, near the buffalo mural, and letting them know you’re a guest.)

You should ask friends and colleagues who park Downtown frequently, too. They might know some tricks of the trade that can help you. 

Statistically speaking, there is enough parking in Downtown Fort Wayne; it’s just a matter of finding it. Now get out there, and explore!

If you want to learn more about the science of parking Downtown, read our full report here.

This story is made possible by underwriting from Downtown Fort Wayne and Design Collaborative.
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Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.