“Parking Problem” Not The Worst One To Have


From time to time we’ve expressed the sentiment that the public officials who run our local government units often make things a lot harder than they need to be – whether because they don’t think clearly, they are cowed by special interests, or they allow themselves to be bamboozled by so-called (and self-proclaimed) “experts” both within and without those units of government.

Those mistakes often multiply the problems.

A new problem recently has sprung up, however, that local government has not created but which it will need to confront: parking.

The commuters who have been parking in the lot at 36 S. Fairview the City has been leasing from AT&T for years will become nomads on October 1. That’s because AT&T is expanding its Park Ridge operations by about 100 employees and is reclaiming that lot from the City. That loss of parking spaces comes on the heels of the loss of another S. Fairview lot on which a new multi-family residential structure is being built.

One hundred new AT&T employees here is a small boon for Uptown merchants, especially those who expect to serve food and drink to those new employees. Similarly, the conversion of surface parking lots to developed property should substantially increase the real estate taxes the properties generate.

That comes with the loss of public parking spaces, primarily all-day commuter spaces. And as we have frequently pointed out in the past, more residential units may very well mean more school-aged children, which will substantially increase the burden on those taxpayers without schoolchildren who already subsidize more than 50% of the approximately $14,000 per D-64 student, and approximately $17,000 per D-207 student.

But back to the parking problem.

Actually, it’s two problems: a commuter parking shortage and a business parking shortage. The former requires spaces primarily between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, while the latter requires more/most of its spaces evenings and weekends.

Evening and weekend parking demands will hopefully increase even more with the addition of the new “Pick” restaurant on the old Pickwick Restaurant site, the new “Holt’s” restaurant on the former Pines site, and the new Irish pub on the former Scharringhausen pharmacy site. And perhaps by a new sushi restaurant on S. Prospect in the former Pioneer Press office building near Hay Caramba.

Those staggered needs suggest that a solution may not be all that complicated. But that solution is looking more and more like a properly-sized parking garage.

Although we’ve already heard calls for a new “parking study,” the City Council and City Staff shouldn’t need yet another “parking study” to figure out that there are two prime sites in Uptown for such a garage that the City already owns: the surface parking lot at Summit and Euclid, and the Library lot. And from what we understand, either site can accommodate a 3-4 story deck that could hold about 125 vehicles per floor.

The main “devil” in the details of such a project is who will pay for it, especially if Public Works guru Wayne Zingsheim’s SWAG of 20,000 – $25,000 per space is in the ballpark.

As we wrote in our post of 06.25.15, if Park Ridge has real parking needs, they should generate interest from private developers who might be willing to pony up the construction costs in return for something like a low-cost, long-term ground lease from the City and the lion’s share of the parking fees.

Failing that, however, the City Council will have to give serious consideration to whether a parking garage is the kind of project, and provides the kind of service, that City government owes its residents and its merchants.

Meanwhile, the Council will need a plan for dealing with the near-term commuter parking shortage. That will likely require some on-street parking in the residential areas near the Uptown METRA station that will likely inconvenience commuters and almost certainly annoy residents in those affected neighborhoods.

That inconvenience and annoyance, however, might be substantially reduced by the City’s setting up – and scrupulously enforcing – marked commuter parking spaces that take up no more than half the available curb space on any given block. Or the City might consider some variation of alternate-side parking for commuters and residents; i.e., commuters will park on the north/east sides of those streets on the first and third weeks of the month, and the south/west sides of those streets on the second and fourth weeks.

The City might even consider pre-paid commuter permit parking in marked spaces on those residential streets.

The short-term fix, however, is the easy part. The tougher, and more important, piece of the parking problem is finding the private developer willing to build the garage.

But not repeating the ankle-grabbing Uptown TIF-style giveaways that will continue to screw our taxpayers for another 12 years.

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