FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Some would tell you it’s a major draw to downtown Fort Worth: free parking on nights and weekends.

Now, officials want to make sure that the subsidized parking is giving a good return on taxpayer dollars. Fans of the free parking say it really comes down to this: give customers a little, say free parking, and they will spend a lot.

For example,  $95 million is spent every year in Sundance just in the full service restaurants alone.

Sundance Square is packed with places to shop, eat and play-attracts some 10 million visitors each year.

One of those visitors is Cindy Collins.

“I love downtown Fort Worth, it’s quiet and peaceful. Very people friendly and very nice and clean!”

The McGees stumbled upon this North Texas jewel while visiting from Kentucky

“I like it. It’s real nice,” says Reginald McGee.

But, Sundance Square is also popular with locals who say the free after hours parking is a big incentive.

“If I’m going to come back downtown to where I work during the day, having a free place to park is a big incentive otherwise, I might just stay home or go somewhere else,” says Beth Weibel.

There are roughly 5000 parking spaces in Sundance Square. A special taxing district, which oversees improvements to the area, subsidizes the free parking in about 3500 garage spaces.

With leases for three of the garages set to expire in September, board members have asked staffers to crunch the numbers to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal, and that the parking incentive is worth the dollars spent. Local businesses say it is.

“It means a lot, even if they have a lot of money it doesn’t matter. Those are incentives that the customer likes to have. We all like free stuff? Absolutely,” says Taverna Pizzeria owner Lucio Picozzi

“Even though I love downtown Fort Worth, I could probably take my money someplace else that I’d use for that parking and have a little bit more fun… so it’d be unfortunate if I had to start paying for parking down here,” agrees Cindy Collins.

But, Sundance Square officials are reassuring visitors that’s not going to happen.

Officials with the taxing district say the garage lease renewal may also give them an opportunity to expand the slots available, but the board will make the final decision. They’re expected to meet again next week.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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