Riverside elected officials may have kicked a hornets’ nest on April 7 when they directed staff to designate seven public parking spaces in a lot south of the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad as metered parking instead of designating them to be used by businesses on East Quincy Street.
The decision followed a roughly 40-minute discussion which had appeared unlikely to produce a consensus, and which has at least one Quincy Street business owner upset.
“This has been an issue since we started our business 10 years ago, and it keeps getting worse,” wrote Derrick Mancini, the owner of Quincy Street Distillery at 39 E. Quincy St., in an email to President Joseph Ballerine on April 8. “The village has been and continues to poorly manage parking throughout the village: We remain with serious shortfalls where needed for businesses, while much parking downtown remains unused in both private and village hands. Parking should be supporting our village businesses, and not considered a generator of revenue in the village.”
Business will have unfettered access to those parking spots on weekday nights and on weekends and holiday, but the lack of dedicated off-street business parking south of the tracks will continue to make things difficult during some times of day, said Mancini.
“It is usually not so bad for us after 6 p.m. weekdays or 4 p.m. Saturday,” Mancini wrote to the Landmark. “But 3-5 p.m. can be very congested, especially with the flow of parents picking up students from the tutoring center in our building. … Also, [it] gets busy if there is an event at the Arts Center.”
Mancini also complained that by metering those parking spots, the village is being unfair to businesses along East Quincy Street since it does not meter parking in its lot behind businesses along East Burlington Street on the north side of the tracks or in the green parking lot at 61-63 E. Burlington St.
Moreover, the village provides free permit parking north of the tracks for employees, which is great if you work there but is a bit of a hike for anyone who works on East Quincy Street.
Toward the end of the discussion of how to handle the newly available parking spaces in the Quincy Street lot, Ballerine suggested that the village needed to collect as much revenue as it could.
“On that basis, all of the parking should be leased or metered in the village,” Mancini said. “Why punish the businesses on Quincy versus those on Burlington?”
Riverside recently acquired access to 13 parking spaces in what is known as Lot 8, a U-shaped area that wraps around the rear of businesses east of the Arcade Building on the north side of East Quincy Street.
The spaces previously were assigned to First American Bank, which amended its agreement with the village on those spaces in March. The bank retains five spaces for its use from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Six parking spaces along the BNSF right-of-way that once were assigned to the bank will become paid commuter parking spaces. There are 22 people on the waiting list for commuter permits in that lot, according to Finance Director Karin Johns.
The remaining seven spaces, located closest to East Quincy Street along the east edge of the lot, will be metered parking available for anyone to use. The spots will have time limits of two to three hours, but because payment will be done through a smartphone app, they conceivably could also be used during daytime business hours by commuters who feed the meter remotely, thereby taking up valuable spaces that could be used by employees or customers of nearby businesses.
Ballerine disputed that parking was a large problem at any time of day along East Quincy Street, saying, “It’s not a desert.”
“There’s parking on the street. I never have a problem finding parking,” Ballerine said. “We need to gather revenue where we can and these are important spots.”
Harlem Avenue parking opening soon to public
A parking lot at 3320 Harlem Ave. acquired earlier this year by the village of Riverside as part of an agreement to redevelop the former Bank of America property at 3300 Harlem Ave. will soon be available for public use.
The 23-space lot will be restriped by public works employees in the coming weeks and the village will provide the public with metered parking through a smartphone app. The village may also set aside some parking spaces for nearby businesses, which may be able to pay for exclusive use of certain spots for either customers or employees. There could also be free spots set aside for time-limited general customer parking.
“If the decision of the board is to create a hybrid of commuter and business parking and possibly 24-hour parking, we can put that information out there,” said Village Manager Jessica Frances, adding the village can always adjust how many spaces to allocate for what purpose depending on demand.
The parking lot likely will be open for public use by no later than May.
In addition, the village has inquired whether Amazon would consider placing hub lockers in the former bank ATM drive thru lane in the lot at 3320 Harlem Ave. In addition to providing secure delivery of Amazon orders, the village would also recoup sales taxes related to items routed through the lockers.
Despite the decision to use the property as a parking lot for now, officials did not rule out selling the roughly quarter-acre site if there’s a redevelopment opportunity. The derelict building immediately to the west of the parking has drawn the interest of developers, Frances told the Landmark.
While there’s no purchase imminent or plan on the drawing board, anyone wanting to redevelop that property would probably also want the village’s parking lot as well.
— Bob Uphues