Planning gets in gear for parking in downtown Janesville

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Marcia Nelesen
Sunday, June 9, 2013

— The city’s downtown parking plaza and its 270 parking stalls likely will disappear within four years, and city staff is hosting a Tuesday, June 18, meeting to start the planning process for future parking.

“We’re asking people what they think,” said Terry Nolan, associate planner. “If people have plans to do something with their buildings, we need to know about it. That would be very helpful.

“This is kind of the first piece of the concept plan, before the removal of the plaza and all the improvements we’re going to make.”

City staff sent 55 surveys to people within a smaller area that will be most impacted when the plaza is removed.

Nolan said she was impressed that 32 sent replies and a handful of others called to share their thoughts.

The plaza is deteriorating, and the state Department of Natural Resources has told officials it will not permit a replacement.

The city has hired consultant Walker Parking Consultants of Chicago to create a parking model to help determine immediate and future parking needs. Parking to replace the plaza could be phased in before the plaza is removed, Nolan said.

“When the parking plaza is removed, there’s going to be somewhat of a ripple effect, and we’re going to try to capture that (ripple) as best as we can,” Nolan said.

Busy areas now include the senior center parking lot and the first block of South Main Street, Nolan said.

Staff completed more parking counts than usual for the model, and the consulting firm will use those in its computations, Nolan said.

Counts were done the week of May 6 at varying times. One count was done at 6 p.m. Friday to measure weekend parking, Nolan said.

Staff did see a “bump up” in Friday parking as office workers left downtown and tavern customers and others arrived downtown, but parking “really isn’t an issue on weekends,” Nolan said.

Janesville residents think about downtown parking differently, Nolan said.

“I think even people who want more convenient parking acknowledge there’s this cultural assumption that all other parking in Janesville is so convenient (and) that the downtown should be the same way,” Nolan said.

These are the same people who realize they will walk blocks to their car in any other city’s downtown.

“And while they acknowledge that fact, they don’t seem to want to do that here,” she said.

2011 survey finds plenty of parking available

A 2011 parking survey showed the overall downtown occupancy rate at 37 percent, and city staff concluded then that adequate on-street and off-street parking exists in the central business district.

At that time, the occupancy rate had decreased from an average of 48 percent in 2010.

According to the study:

-- The ground- and first-floor levels of the Parker Drive parking ramp were well used, while the third- and fourth-floors were mostly vacant. The ramp, located at the intersection of Parker Drive and Wall Street, contains 239 stalls for cars and nine stalls for motorcycles and mopeds. Surrounding surface lots along Parker Drive and Wall Street were mostly vacant.

-- Occupancy rates in the senior center lot fluctuated from a high of 86 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2009 and 77 percent in 2010. The 2011 occupancy rate was 60 percent, suggesting lower demand for parking mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

-- Occupancy at the parking plaza above the Rock River decreased over the years, going from 82 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2010 and 59 percent in 2011. The opening of the Parker parking ramp likely shifted some parking away from the plaza.

The 2011 survey was conducted Aug. 3-4 during mid-morning and mid-day hours.

The central business district consists of 44 blocks bound by Centerway and Prospect Avenue to the north; Wisconsin Street to the east; Academy Street to the west; and West Court Street, McKinley Street, Van Buren Street and St. Lawrence Avenue to the south.

In 2011, 2,389 parking spaces were available in the central business district. Of those, 948—or 40 percent—were on-street and 1,441—or 60 percent—were off-street, including leased and reserved spaces.

Of the 948 on-street spaces, 442—or 42 percent—were for short-term parking and 506—or 53 percent—were long-term parking.

Last updated: 7:54 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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