Janesville64.6°

Surveys on senior center parking aren't parallel

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JAMES P. LEUTE
September 23, 2008
— Dozens of senior citizens signaled a collective "phooey" Monday to a city study that says there's more than enough parking around the senior center on South Main Street.

The seniors, led by Don Allison, questioned the timing and results of the city's study, which basically found that 77 percent of the parking spaces within 450 feet of the center were occupied. Within 600 feet, the occupancy rate dipped to 70 percent.


The city did its study the week of June 9 and counted empty spots at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on each day of the week.


Allison said June was an atypical month for attendance at the center, which is normally busiest in October, November, March and April.


City officials acknowledged that and bumped their original findings by 12.5 percent to reach the 77 percent and 70 percent occupancy rates, said Brad Cantrell, the city's community development director.


Cantrell agreed there's a lack of parking at certain times, as occupancy can be as high as 94 percent or as low as 65 percent. Occupancy for handicapped stalls, he said, averaged 67 percent and never exceeded 83 percent.


Allison said the center did its own study at different times of the day. It showed markedly higher occupancy rates in the area's parking stalls.


"Our results do not agree," Allison said.


The city's contention that the area's handicapped parking stalls are never full is wrong, he said.


Allison said the center needs an additional 20 spaces just to solve its day-to-day parking problem, which he noted will only get worse as use of the center increases.


Cantrell said parking is generally available in the city's parking plaza over the Rock River, but several seniors said that option is too far for some to walk. It's also more dangerous since the city removed a stoplight at the intersection of Court and Water streets, they said.


Cantrell listed several options to alleviate the parking situation, including:


-- Reconfiguring the center's lot to add four stalls.


-- Moving 10 stalls leased to a neighboring business, Mercy Options, across Court Street to the parking plaza.


-- Change the center's programming to limit clustering of high-demand events.


-- Create additional temporary handicap space.


-- Construct more off-street parking, most likely at the former site of the Rock County Jail, which the city does not own.


The latter seemed to be the favored choice of several seniors in the audience, as well as a couple of council members.


The city has a history of buying riverfront parcels for future development, council member Bill Truman said. He said he doesn't understand why the city wouldn't investigate buying the former jail site to solve an immediate problem that will only be compounded by aging baby boomers using the senior center.


Cantrell said buying the site would have significant budget implications and likely would take the parcel off the list of sites that can be developed along the Rock River.


Other ideas included valet parking or a park-and-ride center to serve the facility, as well as an increased use of the Janesville Transit System and carpooling.


"How many of you carpooled here tonight?" Allison asked council members. "These seniors are busy people and going to the center is only of the things they do on any given day."


While the council didn't take any action on the seniors' request for more parking, members vowed to study the issue carefully.


"Parking is an issue no matter what the study says," said council President Amy Loasching. "We're very concerned, and we need to find a solution.


"We've heard you, and we hope you've heard us."


OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Monday, the Janesville City Council:


-- Approved an expansion of tax increment financing for TIF Nos. 30, 31, 32 and 33. State law recently changed to allow municipalities to spend TIF money on projects within a half-mile of an existing TIF district without amending its boundaries.


TIF No. 30 is being created to stimulate mixed-use development of commercial and residential areas, eliminate blight caused by vacant buildings and stimulate redevelopment. It is located along both sides of Center Avenue from Wolcott Street to Covey Drive.


TIF No. 31 includes an older commercial area long West Court Street from Pine Street to Crosby Avenue.


TIF No. 32 includes four blocks of a mixed-use commercial/industrial redevelopment area along East Racine Street east of Interstate 90/39.


TIF No. 33 includes a redevelopment area along Mineral Point Avenue and North Jackson and Franklin streets to stimulate the redevelopment of the area between the Mercy Hospital campus and downtown.


-- Approved a revised TIF agreement with LiquiPur Holdings, which had planned to open a bottling operation on the city's south side in TIF No. 22. The company now intents to lease space in the vacant Unisource building on Wuthering Hills Drive, and the council amended the agreement to include the move to TIF No, 14.


-- Approved a revised TIF agreement with Assembly and Testing Worldwide, which plans to open an engineering center in the One Parker Place building in downtown Janesville. The company, which designs factory automation equipment, plans to hire 21 former Gilman engineers at an average wage and salary of $75,000 per year.



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