Parking options in Libertyville's popular downtown will increase today with the official opening of a new deck that has been under construction since May.
Local dignitaries at 3 p.m. will open the $8.74 million structure to traffic with an informal ceremony. Former Village Administrator Kevin Bowens, who shepherded this project before retiring a few weeks ago, is expected to be the first user.
The multistory deck replaces a village surface parking lot south of Church Street, east of Brainerd Avenue and west of Milwaukee Avenue. An elevator still needs to be installed, but arrangements were made with Walsh Construction to open about 290 of the 317 spaces, according to Chris Clark, who replaced Bowens.
"It will be more than 95 percent available," he said. "The rest of the work will be completed by late February or (early) March."
The deck is the second one west of Milwaukee Avenue, joining a 360-space parking garage built in 2009 two blocks north on Lake Street and Brainerd Avenue. Both are funded with proceeds from a special taxing district designated in the 1980s and extended specifically to finish parking improvements through 2021.
Milwaukee Avenue always has been the village's main commercial street and center for downtown business and events. Interest has amplified in recent years, and with a surge in restaurants and nearly every commercial space filled, parking at times is at a premium.
"It's not a bad problem to have," Mayor Terry Weppler said.
Work on the second deck was to have begun in early 2016 in hope of finishing before the holidays. But due to the demand for precast concrete, the low bid was $1.4 million more than the original cost estimate. The design was modified, the number of spaces reduced by 23 and the project was rebid.
But the lowest two bids were rejected because they did not meet guidelines, and Walsh Construction got the nod despite being $340,000 higher than the low bid.
Ground was broken in May and arrangements made for shuttle buses and alternative parking as the project unfolded.
Daily activities at the village-owned Libertyville Civic Center, home to the senior center, and other locales were affected, but no big problems were reported.
"It was really as seamless and fluid as it could be," said Brian Grano, owner of the popular Mickey Finn's Brewery, which abuts the deck. He said the loss of 110 spots during construction hurt business to an extent, but he hopes to rebound.
The new deck will free up spaces in the Lake Street deck, which is good for the north end of downtown, said Ken Stemke, a partner in the Main Street Social restaurant scheduled to open this spring in a renovated space.
"The last thing you want is to scare visitors away due to parking hassles," he said.
Parking: New structure will free up space in Lake Street deck