Independent local retailers gathered at Gaviidae Common Monday as part of Boutique Week to discuss the state of shopping in downtown Minneapolis. The whole objective of Boutique Week is to emphasize the unique stores in Gaviidae, and I have to say, the management of that center really deserves credit for turning things around: going after interesting, unique stores and doing a lot to promote them. While more is needed, there are finally enough shops between Off Fifth and Neiman Marcus to make a trip to Gaviidae worthwhile: Drama keeps improving, there's Len Druskin Man, StyledLife, Pacifier, FinnStyle, JV & Company and the list goes on. So what prevents people from visiting? Is it simply that they don't realize there is shopping on Nicollet Mall, even after Crate & Barrel, Marshall Field's and Ralph Lauren? Perhaps. But the bi issue that came up again and again in an hour long panel discussion that I moderated: parking. Minnesotans don't want to pay to park - at least not for shopping. Or so it seems. To find out once and for all, Gaviidae plans to offer free parking during the holiday season - yes, that's a scoop and no, there won't be any strings attached. By doing so, they hope to determine if free parking is what it will take to bring shoppers back downtown, or if it's going to take more (Barney's?! A/X Armani Exchange?!) than that.