Downtown eyes short-term parking fix as surface lots vanish one by one

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Print

By KATHARINE GRAYSON

There are going to be a lot of changes ahead for downtown Oak Park over the next few years: A new health club on Lake Street, an apartment complex on Harlem and Ontario, condos at the Bank One lot, and possibly a new college moving into the top three floors of the Field's building.

And with all the changes ahead, village staff and the Downtown Oak Park business association (DTOP) are already looking at how to at least cope with the midterm parking impacts of construction?#34;much of which will be underway this summer.

Mike Chen, village director of development, said staff has been thoroughly studying the effect of new projects and noted that parking will likely be at its worst from August to November, when downtown will lose roughly 150-180 spaces.

This assumes that construction of condos at the Bank One lot?#34;on Marion Street, just north of the bank headquarters on Lake Street?#34;won't begin until late this summer. The architect of the project said last week he was hoping to break ground in June, but Chen said the village has a parking agreement in place through the beginning of July. 

Depending on how negotiations go with the developer, it's also possible that around 50 spaces in the Bank One lot will be open to public parking after banking hours when the project is finished. 

In the short run, the village is currently fast-tracking expansion of the Holley Court garage, which may begin as early as July, and wrap up as early as October. (During the expansion, however, the garage will lose 60 spaces, and the adjacent surface lot will lose about 20.) Chen added that the impact of the health club won't likely be seen for another 14-16 months; the college won't likely open until August or September. Both new developments are likely to mean more cars will be using the garage.

During construction, DTOP Director Donna Ogdon Chen said the organization is planning to "take some responsibility" for addressing the busy construction season. "We're looking to explore with the village such things as off-site permit parking for employees, and upgraded shuttle service," she said, adding that they're looking at other strategies, such as a Shop and Bike program.

A long term solution to expanding the parking supply downtown, however, is yet to be decided upon. After the 300-car expansion of Holley Court, Chen said it's likely that the ratio of parking spaces downtown should be "fairly constant," but he also said, to truly "satisfy the needs of downtown" an additional parking facility would be necessary.

DTOP has long asked for construction of a new garage on North Boulevard. In general, Ogdon Chen said businesses would like to see parking more evenly distributed throughout downtown. Over 50 percent of public parking spaces are now located in the northwest quadrant of the business district, she said.

A new North Boulevard parking garage is recommended in the village's new downtown master plan. However, reconfiguration of that area of downtown, as recommended by the plan, has proved controversial.

Though more debate may be ahead for the downtown plan, Village President David Pope said he's planning to talk with the board about future plans for parking during "goal setting" sessions, which should begin in the coming months.

"Clearly parking downtown is important and needs to be addressed. We've already taken steps in approving expansion of the Holley Court garage," he said. "We're going to looking at that issue relative to our priorities."

Pope said the loss of the Bank One lot will "obviously have an impact on parking supply."

"I don't think anybody is unaware of the impact," he said.

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy