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December 23, 2013 | 04:04 PM
The city and school district might have a chance to partner together and site a parking structure across the street from Central-Denison School in the 400 block of Cook Street.

At the Lake Geneva Parking Commission meeting Dec. 18, City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the city was recently approached by the Lake Geneva Elementary School District with a proposal for the district and city to jointly acquire property on the block where the city might build a parking structure.

Mayor Jim Connors, who also attended the meeting, said he thought the city should at least consider the proposal.

“It could come up at the committee of the whole,” he said.

Jordan said the school district intended to invest into Central-Denison to make the building viable for another 20 to 30 years.

And the district is looking to buy several residential properties across Cook Street from Central-Denison to create surface parking for the school.

The location is directly behind the BMO-Harris Bank, which faces Broad Street to the west.

The district is offering the city a chance to participate in paying for the lots and using the site for a parking structure, Jordan said. There are four lots with houses on the block, bounded by an alley to the north, Wisconsin Street to the south, and the BMO Harris Bank to the west, he said.

Three of the properties are rentals owned by out-of-state owners, one is owner-occupied.

Connors said that a three-story parking structure that would fit on those properties would provide parking for about 500 cars.

The advantage of the site is that building on it would not take any parking spaces out of service during construction, Connors said. In addition, the area is mixed residential and business, making it appropriate for a parking structure, Jordan said.

Rich & Associates, Southfield, Mich., which did a recent parking study for the city, proposed the Cook Street parking lot for a parking structure.

The problem with that site is that building on it would take about 100 parking spaces out of use during construction, Connors has said.

About half of the lot is also privately owned, which would require the city to work out a long-term lease with the owners or go through eminent domain procedures to acquire the property outright.

The main disadvantage to the block proposed by the school district is location.

“In a perfect world, it would be a block closer to the downtown, but it is what it is,” Connors said.

The school district would share in the cost of the property. The city would finance the construction of the parking structure through its Tax Increment Finance district.

Having the school involved with the project would help the city when it approaches the joint review board with the amendment it will need to pay for a parking structure, Jordan said.

The joint review board has members from all taxing bodies affected by the city’s TIF district. The board has to approve amendments to the TIF budget.

Jordan said if the city and school district were to go ahead with the project, the four properties would be purchased at fair-market value. He said the state law stipulates how municipalities acquire private property for public use.

Marty Smith, chairman of the parking commission, said the location seemed appropriate.

“Clearly this is where (downtown) employees park now,” Smith said.

The proposed structure would absorb teacher parking during the school year. Connors said the city could add street lighting along Cook to improve nighttime safety for those who would park at the elevated parking structure..

In addition, the new traffic signal to go up at Cook and Main streets would accommodate those who would walk straight south on Cook to the beach.

The Rich & Associates study identified a 350-parking-space shortfall in the city during the summer.

Based on the estimated 500 new spaces in the structure, it could potentially meet that shortfall and create a surplus.

The parking commissioners agreed that city council members should at least look at the option when considering possible locations for a parking structure.

Superintendent James Gottinger, Lake Geneva schools, said the elementary school district’s perspective is to provide services for students, parents and teachers in the Central-Denison area.

“Parking and traffic flow have always been an issue there,” Gottinger said in a telephone interview the day after the parking commission meeting. “We’ve looked at ways to find solutions to that problem.”

Gottinger said the school district originally looked at the two residential lots closest to the school and talked with the owners of those properties.

The owners of the two lots further west had not been contacted by the district, he said. No official offers have been made to the property owners, Gottinger said.

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