The four-level pay garage, long sought by residents, should help alleviate parking congestion downtown.
After years of planning and a month of free use, Stillwater's new parking garage began charging motorists on Monday.
The pay system at the $5.3 million structure, considered a solution to long-standing parking congestion in the destination city along the St. Croix River, began smoothly, said Bill Turnblad, the city's community development director.
The city will charge an "offseason" daily fee of $3, Turnblad said. For businesses, $15 a vehicle is the standard monthly pass rate, $12 is a bulk business rate, and $20 will pay for a reserved spot.
On Monday afternoon, 48 of the ramp's 250 spaces were filled.
"We're hoping that it becomes the parking lot of choice so that it will open more spaces immediately next to businesses that will be convenient to visitors," Turnblad said.
Downtown business owners have complained for years that the city didn't have enough parking, particularly during shows and festivals when Stillwater became a destination for thousands of visitors. The new four-level parking garage, built next to the 1920s-era Lowell Inn on 2nd Street, added critical parking to a city that largely depends on riverfront surface lots and street parking.
Turnblad said it also fits with Stillwater's historic buildings.
"People are happy with the way it fits the fiber of the architecture. They're happy with the roominess inside," he said.
The structure has entrances on 2nd Street at the bottom and from 3rd Street at the top of the bluff behind it.
The Lowell Inn is building an annex that will connect to the garage. Restrooms in the structure will open Feb. 1.
The city has sold 65 long-term passes thus far, said city planner Mike Pogge.
"It's a great project. I think it turned out really nice," he said.