Only three restaurants in the village offer valet parking as a service to their customers, but Main Street President and restaurateur Art Sundry said there’s a fringe benefit in paying someone to fetch your vehicle that could be extended to every motorist on Madison Street. Sundry is working on a plan that he said will enable every Madison Street patron to use valet services, and, in the meantime, free up more street parking.
The details are still fuzzy, Sundry said, but he intends to pitch a sort of “communal valet” program at the next meeting of the ad hoc Parking Improvement Committee on July 3. Sundry is one of five business owners on that committee.
In recent weeks, Sundry has asked a half-dozen property owners if they would lend their parking lots to the cause, and so far, has gotten a thumbs up from District 91, which has 16 spaces behind its administrative building on Desplaines Avenue that go largely unused on evenings and weekends. The details of that agreement, and any others that might be reached with St. John’s Lutheran Church, Living Word Christian Center, and Zimmerman-Harnett Funeral Home, among others, still need to be worked out, but Sundry is optimistic.
“We want to work with them,” school board President Glenn Garlisch said of the parking committee. “For us to sit on these spaces that are prime parking on Friday and Saturday ….”
An obvious catch to the proposal is funding, but Sundry said he will propose a sliding scale be used to charge a fee to Madison Street entrepreneurs.
“I think my plan’s ambitious and nobody likes to pay fees, but I don’t think anybody’s going to fold up shop and leave,” Sundry said.
Given a chance, the valet system would run in conjunction with another Parking Improvement Committee program that encourages employees along Madison Street to park on Jackson and Adams streets, south of the commercial strip. A trial run of that program is expected to begin sometime in July. Sundry said he wouldn’t expect his valet system to get off the ground before August.
“I kind of like this idea of having universal valet,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said.
Calderone’s office is organizing the ad hoc committee, and though he agreed there are some logistics to work out, the mayor said the service could be quite popular. Aside from potentially freeing up on-street parking, a valet program would cater to the increasingly chic tastes of Madison Street’s customer base, Calderone said.
Also, this would be the second proposal from members of the parking committee that asks entrepreneurs to play a key role in easing the village’s parking crunch. Residents lashed out at village commissioners late last year when they were considering a proposal to flatten several homes to expand existing lots, accusing officials of trying to solve a problem created by the business district on the backs of homeowners. Sundry said these new initiatives should ease tensions created by that earlier proposal that was ultimately chased off the council’s agenda.
“The residents can see the businesses are putting their money where their mouth is,” Sundry said.
However, while Calderone and Sundry said shuffling the deck may make for more efficient use of what’s available, ultimately new spaces will need to be added. A consultant’s survey of the village’s parking needs last year revealed a shortage of 158 parking spaces along Madison Street. If new land needs to be acquired to construct new surface lots or a multi-level garage, members of the parking committee are hopeful that these new practices will have a mitigating influence.
“Ultimately, we need more land, but if we do A and B it reduces the land need,” Sundry said.