Shop-dine-park unveiled in New Haven

City officials have unveiled a special new gift card that is only usable in New Haven — and the first of its kind.

Unveiled Jan. 6, the Shop-Dine-Park card is accepted at any business in the Elm City that takes Discover. Michael Mohler, deputy director of the Transportation, Traffic and Parking Department said that the program is an improved replacement of the defunct Parcxmart card, which could be used to pay at parking meters and as a debit card. Shop-Dine-Park, the “brainchild” of former Transportation Director Jim Travers, was created through a partnership between the Town Green Special Services District and the Transportation Department, Mohler added.

“This card would be a really nice way to say, ‘I want to pay for you to have an experience in New Haven,” Mohler said. “You can use this to park, you can use it to shop, and you can use it to dine.’”

Currently, the card is for one-time use only and is exclusively available for purchase at Info New Haven for a fee of $3.95. At the moment, over 200 merchants are accepting the card.

Later on, the card will be reloadable and available for purchase online, said Win Davis, the executive director of Town Green Special Services. The Shop-Dine-Park program will also eventually allow merchants to offer cash back and have a special opt-in feature that texts users advertisements based on their proximity to stores, Davis said. The next set of major changes to the card program will likely launch in March, he said.

Similar to Parcxmart, Shop-Dine-Park will benefit employers by allowing them to give their workers payment for parking without the liability of cash or a credit card, Mohler said. Using the card, employers will be able to easily track charges, Davis said. College students are also a target group for the program, he added, as a planned feature will allow parents to reload the card and track purchases.

All businesses in the Town Green district that accept Discover are currently covered, Davis said, but the program is still gathering information about businesses in other districts. While Davis said that sales are currently slow, Town Green has yet to do extensive marketing for the card since it only launched recently.

“We’re encouraging as many organizations as possible to start advertising that it’s here, it’s available, and it would be a good way to give the gift of New Haven,” Davis said.

Town Green has gone through multiple setbacks during the card’s two-year development process because of federal requirements that make setting up debit cards with minimal personal information difficult, Davis said. However after going through multiple vendors, city officials were able to work with a provider to create a card that requires only basic information, such as a name and address, he added.

City officials have praised the fact that the card keeps money local.

“It’s great that we get a chance to brand … [so] people understand that we have it all here — you don’t have to go out of town to get your shopping needs met,” Ward 7 Alder Doug Hausladen ’04 said.

Businesses that are currently not on the Town Green’s roster can fill out an application on infonewhaven.com to be included in the program.

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