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Cook Street lot is first choice for parking ramp



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March 11, 2014 | 03:47 PM
After 50 years of debate, delay and inaction, whether the city will build a parking ramp is starting to reach a decision point.

On March 24, the Lake Geneva City Council will be asked to decide whether it wants to build a public parking ramp on city-owned property behind the Geneva Theater near Cook Street.

The Lake Geneva Parking Commission on March 6 unanimously recommended the site.

If the city council agrees, City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the city staff can have requests for proposals ready to send out to area contractors in five to seven days.

Now the issue is selling the idea.

Mayor Jim Connors suggested that the commission put together a presentation for the council that explains its support of the Cook Street lot site for a parking ramp.

If the council approves the proposed location, city staff will immediately begin preparing requests for proposals to be sent to area engineers and designers, said City Administrator Dennis Jordan. He said the RFP documentation can be completed and mailed seven to 10 days after the council meeting.

Connors also suggested a joint meeting between public works and the parking commission to select the consultant from the RFPs returned to the city.

Alderwoman Sarah Hill, the council representative on the parking commission, said she wants to work toward a “resounding yes” on the part of the city council.

“We have to sell this story,” she said.

And if the council rejects the recommendation, would that kill the project?

Not necessarily, Hill said.

Hill said that even if the council, for some reason, rejects the Cook Street option, she will not give up on city parking structure.

A parking study done last summer by Rich & Associates, Southfield, Mich., found the city was short 350 parking spaces during the peak summer tourist season.

The consultants suggested the city build a parking ramp to handle some of the overflow and suggested the Cook Street lot.

At the meeting March 6, the site also received positive support from three residents, who were also at the meeting, Beverly Leonard, owner of Delaney Street Mercantile, 905 W. Main St., Candice Kirchner, who works at Delaney Street, and Charlene Klein, of 815 Wisconsin St.

Klein got involved when her residential block was suggested as a site for a parking ramp that would serve both the city and the near-by Central-Denison School.

The proposal died because of opposition by residents in the Maple Park area, and the technical complications of rezoning the property for a parking structure and then amending the city master plan.

“The number one complaint from customers and residents is the lack of parking,” Leonard said.

She said that the Maple Park residential district has taken the brunt of the parking pressure.

Klein was more interested in the appearance of the building. She said the ramp should be an asset to the city.

“I do hope the parking commission takes very seriously the design of the ramp,” Klein said.

Commissioners agreed that the design of the ramp must blend in with the downtown architecture. The Rich & Associates parking study recommends that a ramp built in the city have an “office retail building look.”

Candice Kirchberg, an employee at Delaney Street, said she supported the comments by Leonard and Klein said.

Also presented at the meeting was an email from Mike Slavney of Vandewalle & Associates, Madison, the city planner, to Jordan.

In it, Slavney said he agreed with the Cook Street location for the parking ramp.

“I think this site is best located in relation to the main attractions in downtown,” Slavney wrote. “The use of a red brick exterior or highlights would complement buildings on Main Street and one of the motifs common in the Maple Park neighborhood.”

Marty Smith, parking commission chairman, said most people don’t know the whole picture behind the decision to pursue construction of a parking ramp.

“I heard one person say ‘I don’t want you to tear down the theater,’” Smith said. That’s never been suggested, he added.

Kevin Fleming, a parking commissioner and president of the Business Improvement District board, said the people he’s talked to representing the chamber of commerce, BID and convention and visitors bureau all are in favor of a parking structure.

Fleming, who had questions about Cook Street lot at the Feb. 26 parking commission meeting said he now supports the site.

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