Check out this year’s Forest Park Community Guide!

Online edition –>

Though in previous meetings the committee had appeared relatively committed to the construction of a parking structure to offset parking difficulties on Madison Street, the possibility of instead sticking to surface parking gained momentum at last week’s meeting.

“I, for one, do not like parking in parking structures,” said Forest Park National Bank President Jerry Vainisi, who said he preferred the idea of expanding the currently existing surface lots sprinkled throughout the downtown area.

Commissioner Terry Steinbach agreed, noting that “as a woman who parks by myself as night, I prefer to not be in a structure.”

The village has hired engineering firm R.H. Anderson and Associates, Inc. to conduct a study of parking needs in the downtown area. The company will begin surveying parking usage on Madison Street in March, and will provide recommendations to the village for addressing its issues with downtown parking.

Village Administrator Michael Sturino said he was pleased to see the committee members exploring all options. “We’re not doing the study to validate any preconceived ideas,” he said. “If it’s shown that it would be more effective and more widely used to have a series of surface parking lots than one garage, then that’s the direction we should go.”

The village currently contributes $140,000 a year toward future parking improvements, but other funding options are still up in the air at this point.

If a parking structure is constructed, commissioners Mark Hosty and Tim Gillian both asserted a desire to see it placed at the center of the downtown area so that nobody will have to walk too far to get to their destination.

“My opinion would be [that the structure should be between] Marengo and Beloit. If it’s not in the middle, we’re not going to get anyone there,” said Hosty.

Though much of last week’s meeting was spent debating whether to include several homes in the district located in areas that might eventually be used for parking, an informal poll of committee members revealed that most would prefer to wait until more data was available on precisely which areas will be needed to prevent prematurely alarming the affected residents.