Report indicates downtown parking is adequate even without parking plaza

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Marcia Nelesen
Friday, October 4, 2013

JANESVILLE--A cultural change--not more parking--might be what Janesville needs downtown, a city planner said.

About two city blocks would be the longest walk from parking to any destination downtown, even after the parking plaza is removed, according to a report by a consultant hired by the city.

Walker Parking Consultants reviewed downtown parking block-by-block, and the results will be shared at a public meeting Monday.

The study found the bulk of parking is within or just beyond two blocks of downtown destinations, said Duane Cherek of the city planning department.

Lack of downtown parking is a common complaint heard from Janesville residents, so accepting a walk of two blocks--about 400 feet--would likely require a cultural change, Cherek acknowledged. He noted that residents of many communities are accustomed walking more than two blocks from parking to their destinations.

Many would be happy in Madison, for example, if they found free parking within four blocks of their destinations, Cherek said.

“With the competing interests for parking downtown, perhaps a cultural change is what's in order for Janesville,” Cherek said.

The study found that parking is available within two blocks even with 95 percent occupancy and with the parking plaza removed, Cherek said.

For example, the parking ramp on Parker Drive is less than two blocks from the parking plaza. When the plaza is removed, a large portion of available parking will be in the parking ramp.

“It's really looking at changing the culture and adjusting as necessary for the benefit of all downtown folks,” he said.

More parking spots are on the east side of the river, and more parking would be needed on the west side if a major redevelopment happens there, Cherek said.

The parking plaza that spans part of the Rock River downtown likely will be removed in 2015 because the state Department of Natural Resources will not give the city a permit to replace it. The structure is deteriorating, and the council has decided not to spend any more money on major repairs.

Owners of businesses surrounding the plaza have said the loss of the structure would hurt their businesses.

The city hired the consultant because it wanted to meet parking needs after the plaza is removed.

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