Glen Ellyn easing downtown parking limits as apartment project construction begins
Glen Ellyn is lifting parking restrictions around downtown before major construction begins on a controversial $40 million apartment development along a Main Street block.
The village will grant downtown visitors a free pass to commuter lots emptied by the plunge in Metra ridership during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some downtown business owners have expressed angst over construction disruptions compounding economic hardships from COVID-19. The village board will hold a special meeting Thursday to hear additional concerns from merchants.
The Main Street parking lot closed Tuesday as crews prep the site for the Apex 400 project. The developer plans to build a five-story apartment building and a parking garage to replace the surface lot as part of a project that has faced legal challenges for nearly a year and a half.
To help ease parking woes, the village is promoting free, all-day customer parking in lots at Duane Street and Glenwood Avenue near Citibank, Main and the Prairie Path, and Duane and Forest Avenue near Marinella Italian Restaurant.
The lots provide more than 200 available spots within one block of Main Street businesses, Village President Diane McGinley said.
"Up until now, those areas have mainly been used for commuters, and we don't normally advertise them as much as we plan to for people who are coming into town," McGinley said. "So I think in the beginning, it's going to be a little bit of a shift, but then I think people are going to benefit from the plethora of available parking all within one block."
But some merchants are worried about the downtown parking strategy amid the ongoing construction of the Civic Center parking garage and as restaurants and retailers try to recover from 11 weeks of COVID-19 closures. Many restaurants and stores still have employees furloughed, shop owner Julie Spiller said.
"I know of several businesses on our end of Main Street that are struggling and likely won't make it," Spiller said in a letter to the village board.
In response to questions over whether the village could delay the closure of the Main Street parking lot, officials say the developer now owns it.
"That's challenging to the developer who wants to get this project started and needs to get the footings and the site graded and prepared," Village Manager Mark Franz said.
The planned two-story Apex 400 parking garage would include public parking on the first floor and residential spaces on the second floor. GSP Development would convey back the first floor of the new structure to the village at the end of the project.
"We're contractually obligated to move forward with this, and we're going to try to make the best of it," Franz told trustees Monday.
In addition, the village is shifting downtown employee parking, including Civic Center users and construction workers, to the Metra lot at Park Boulevard and the Prairie Path to free up spaces on Forest and Hillside avenues for three-hour customer parking.
The village also is promoting parking on Phillips and Hillside avenues, between Main and Forest, and on Forest between Phillips and Duane for all businesses.
On a stretch of Main Street, the village will allow one-hour parking and curbside pickup from 5 to 8 p.m., plus deliveries.
Near the construction zone is an outdoor dining tent set up to help restaurants reeling from shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The tent is tentatively set to remain in place until Nov. 2.
That schedule and the parking plan are subject to change as businesses raise concerns, officials say.
"We try to problem-solve and adjust on the fly," Franz said. "We've been doing that really since the pandemic began. We're going to continue to do that as issues come up, so this plan will likely be tweaked again."