In November, village staff identified Patty McKenna’s home as one the village should acquire to expand the Constitution Court parking lot as part of a proposal to provide additional parking along Madison Street.
That idea was beaten back by public outcry, and now McKenna is trying to come up with solutions to the downtown parking problem as a member of a recently created ad hoc committee. A group of eight residents, five downtown business owners and Mayor Anthony Calderone have met twice to discuss solutions to the parking crunch. Another meeting is scheduled to take place in May.
“We’re really just brainstorming, trying to come up with innovative ideas,” McKenna said.
The village council hastily retreated from a plan in December to acquire six properties close to Madison Street after members of the public came out in opposition. McKenna was one of those opposed to the original proposal.
Chuck Hoehne, a homeowner who lives on the 400 block of Hannah Avenue said the group is largely brainstorming at this point, with an eye on both short-term and long-term solutions.
The focus, Hoehne said, is to find ways to encourage employees of the businesses on Madison to park further away and leave the coveted parking spaces for customers. A number of ideas have been discussed, he said.
Calderone is lending some of the village’s resources to the effort, and has asked engineers to try and assess the feasibility of a few. Everything is very preliminary at this point, Calderone said, and it’s unlikely a long-term solution will be agreed on in 2007.
Should the mayor lose Tuesday’s election, he said he’s hopeful the group continues to meet.
As for specific ideas, Hoehne suggested issuing permits to employees so they can park along the south side of Adams and both sides of Jackson streets. That could create 120 extra parking spaces, Hoehne estimated, which would go a long way towards relieving the parking crunch.
A report by the village’s parking consultant, RHA&A of St. Charles, Ill., estimated a net parking demand of 158 spaces.
But Matt Brown, a co-owner of the Brown Cow ice cream parlor, said not everyone is comfortable with that idea. He, for one, is reluctant to ask employees to walk the couple of blocks to their cars late at night. In particular, Brown said he has concerns about his teenage employees’ safety.
Among the long-term ideas that have been discussed is whether building a multi-level parking garage at Madison and Desplaines Avenue is feasible. The idea is to use vacant the Mobile station property and the adjacent McDonalds to build a parking garage, and provide commercial space for McDonalds at street level.
Other ideas include relaxing the ban on overnight parking for condominium residents where onsite parking is inadequate, and creating a bulletin board that would match residents with extra parking spaces available for rent with those businesses and employees that need parking.
The members of the committee plan to keep working to come up with workable solutions to a problem that has, at times, pitted residents against business owners.
“There’s definitely a lot of sharing of ideas,” Brown said.