Parking solutions spark conversations in downtown Naperville

Updated 11/22/2013 2:15 PM

Parking garages, parking permits, parking studies, parking tickets.

If there's any one topic sure to get people talking in downtown Naperville, it's parking.

City council members this week asked North Central College to help solve a parking problem some downtown business owners brought up when the college sought permanent permission to continue using the Naper Place building at 119 S. Main St. as student dorms.

The council also directed city staff members to study whether additional levels can be added atop the central parking facility on Chicago Avenue instead of tearing it down and rebuilding it as planned.

Both moves are part of an effort to preserve availability of the 2,559 public parking spaces downtown, which a 2012 study found to be in high demand. The study determined satisfaction with downtown parking decreased to 61 percent from 64 percent in 2010, and only 44 percent of people expect to find a spot in less than five minutes.

Alan Anistazios, co-owner of Giordano's Pizza on Main Street, brought up concerns about North Central students using on-street parking near his business that otherwise could be taken by customers. As part of the college's lease of the second, third and fourth floors of Naper Place, student residents are given 25 permits to park in the central business district, said Karyn Robles, transportation and planning team leader.

For overnight parking, students with permits are supposed to park in the Van Buren Avenue deck, but police Chief Robert Marshall said community service officers are issuing two or three tickets a day to students parking on streets or in lots instead.

Robles said the offending students likely are not those who have permits for the parking deck, but others with cars who do not have permits.

The parking concerns did not cause council members to reject North Central's request to continue using the building as 49 dorm rooms for upperclassmen, a use council member Joseph McElroy called "a stroke of genius."

The council approved that request but asked the college to help ensure students are following parking time and location limits. Attorney Kathy West said the college will do so.

"I like the building use, but we need some help from North Central College to address parking in the downtown," council member Grant Wehrli said.

As construction begins soon on a 400-space parking deck with the Water Street District south of the river, the city was planning to tear down the 553-space deck on Chicago Avenue and replace it with a larger one. Now the possibility of adding extra levels to the existing deck also will be considered as staff members begin to budget for a "downtown parking solution," said Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development.

At Tuesday's council meeting, there was some discussion of reviving an idea to build a parking deck near the Nichols Library, but the possibility was shot down.

"I don't want to spend $1 or one hour of staff time trying to decide whether or not we should throw good money after bad and also trash a neighborhood," McElroy said. "And that's what we're talking about doing with that library deck."

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