Naperville nonprofit worries about adventure center's parking demand

 
 

On one side of a parking issue last week in Naperville was longtime nonprofit group, Loaves & Fishes Community Services, which recently bought a property near its service center to ensure clients in need have enough places to park.

On the other side was a new business called Urban Air Adventure Park that hopes to open as an indoor activity area offering experiences such as trampoline dodgeball, electric go-kart racing and rock-wall climbing.

But members of the planning and zoning commission, which heard both sides, said they were confident if the two organizations get together, there will no longer be a conflict, and the parking concern Loaves & Fishes raised never will materialize.

At issue is whether the property on which Urban Air Adventure Park hopes to locate, a former Babies "R" Us along Route 59 at 1931-1955 Glacier Park Ave., has enough parking on site to accommodate the cars of customers.

Under the zoning code, planner Erin Venard said Urban Air is classified as an amusement establishment, meaning it must provide 10 spaces for each 1,000 square feet of building. With a 51,000-square-foot plan, that brings Urban Air's required parking to 510 spaces. On site are 465 stalls, Venard said.

But Len Monson, attorney for Urban Air, said an amusement establishment traditionally is more like an arcade, with games and crowds of players closely packed.

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"This type of indoor adventure park is kind of new and doesn't really fit in our code," Monson said.

Instead of needing 510 parking spaces, Monson said a recent study of six Urban Air parks in Texas showed the peak demand at any one time was for 163 spots.

The Texas facilities were smaller than what's planned in Naperville at roughly 31,000 square feet. But Monson said they lacked a go-kart track, which takes up 21,000 square feet and accounts for the difference in facility size -- without accommodating drastically more customers.

Still, Loaves & Fishes CEO and President Mike Havala said the organization has a "big concern" that overflows of adventure park customers might turn to a lot the charity recently purchased.

Havala said his organization bought the site of the former Key Wester restaurant at 1975 Glacier Park Avenue in May and has been using it as parking ever since. The property sits near Loaves & Fishes' service center at 1871 High Grove Lane, a place within an industrial park where parking can be hard to come by.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Quite frankly, it can be a mess," Havala said.

So the extra spaces at the former Key Wester lot -- roughly 160 of them -- help clients who come for the food pantry or other assistance to find a place to leave their cars.

"We wanted to make sure our clients do not have to fight the semis by parking on the road," Havala said.

A shared parking agreement between a string of properties on Glacier Park means clients of any of them can park on any of the properties. And that's why Havala said he worries adventure park visitors could find their way onto Loaves & Fishes parking if the new Urban Air facility is busy.

Planning and zoning commission members, however, said they were convinced the site provides more than enough parking to meet the demands of all tenants.

Parents often might drop off their kids at a place like Urban Air, instead of parking and joining them inside, or they might carpool with other families, Commissioner Brett Fessler said.

So instead of delaying a decision on whether the adventure park should be able to locate at the site, the commission voted unanimously to recommend the business -- and the parking variance it seeks -- for city council approval. But members encouraged Monson and Loaves & Fishes to meet before the matter proceeds to the council to come to an agreement.

"I think it's going to be a great addition," Commissioner Anthony Losurdo said about Urban Air. "And I'm sure everyone is going to be able to work out this parking."

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