Main Street business owners met with Legacy Square officials Wednesday to get more information about parking issues during construction of the new event venue.
Parking issues and business access came to the front two weeks ago when business owners on the west side of the 100 block of Main Street were informed they would be losing parking behind their businesses and vehicle access to the alleyway in the coming weeks.
Loyd Builders was retained to lead the project, which will bring an outdoor event area to the downtown, and in the first two meetings told the business owners the project needed to be completed in one phase to save time and money. Business owners asked that construction be completed in phases to allow parking and access behind their businesses.
At Wednesday’s meeting, three options were presented. The first was to complete the project in approximately six months with the possibility of opening the alley on a limited basis within a month. Options two and three involved phasing the project. The issue will be brought to the city commission during Monday’s study session. The commission still needs to approve the closing of the alley.
Walker explained the three options and said progress was made to provide some access no matter what option was chosen.
“We are putting additional lighting in the alleyway for saftey reasons, we dedicated some parking spaces for mugshot coffee on first street and I believe it was five spaces that we are putting on timed parking,” Walker said. “We are also putting a timed spot in front of the pharmacy for people to run in and drop a prescription or pick up a prescription. We’ve opened up a hallway and put video cameras in there so that’s going to be a good point of access through the alleyway.”
Walker believed option one, the single phase, was the best fit for the project.
“There’s actually a possibility that we can get it done within a month with some variables,” he said. “Somewhere between one month and three months we could get the alley back and some parking. Ultimately this is the same as we told you before, this is the most efficient way to get the project done both economically and from a timing standpoint. It allows us to get done in early August and limits the amount of time it impacts the area as a whole and gets it done before events like the car show in the fall.”
He added the options presented were a direct result of the issue brought forward by business owners.
“We understand the things that are most desirable, regaining alley access and regaining whatever parking we can regain as soon as possible,” he said. “We had some preliminary discussions about it and even thought the project itself in whole will take six months, that some of this parking to the south and some of the alley access would come open earlier.“
Walker said option two, which involved phasing the project, would add at least 12 weeks and six figures to the project. Option three would add a gravel parking spot at one end of the block and would be moved as the second phase began. But, Walker said option three would add approximately 20 weeks to the project as contractors dealt with the fall and winter weather delays.
When asked by the crowd which option, two or three, were the best, Walker said option two was the “best bad idea.” He said there were challenges with both along with safety concerns.
Support from some business owners were voiced for option two. Dana Coopey, owner of O-Town, said he supported that option.
“Option two fits me better, at least it shows some action back there,” he said. “At least people would see cars there and see people going in and out of those buildings and maybe it will drive more people through the alleyway. As far as the traffic, they go both ways on that anyway. So if there is away you can make cars swing out more on second so they can see, I think at least, in theory, that gives us some sort of option and plus everybody’s working together on it. Of course we can’t get trucks back there but we can figure that out on Main.”
Some of the safety concerns are the changing parking availability and vehicle direction in the alley. Walker said there was just not enough space between where the fence is to safely get vehicles through the alley. He added that continuity for business owners, in his opinion, was desirable.
“We really want you to plan for what your disturbance is,” Walker said. “It may not be ideal or it may not be kind a sort a okay,” he said. “But if you can plan for what your disturbance is opposed to one week its here, the next week it’s there. All I want to do is move my fence in. I feel like I’m trying guys. I told you six months when we first started and now I’m down to a month if we can get some utility stuff to work out, so I’m trying.”
Walker believed the city and the project officials were doing all they can to help the business owners.
“I think there is a pretty good example of what the city is trying to do to work with the group in here,” Walker said. “I’ve worked in other communities where they wouldn’t even have considered doing something like that. Just me personally working in other communities, this is big that the city’s willing to do this. I know it’s not ideal but it does get more parking back into the vicinity.“
John Coen, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce CEO/President, was asked if the project was fully funded. He said if the project suffered a six-digit setback, some items would have to be cut out.
“There will have to be things that go away,” he said. “We’re close, we’re still fundraising. We’re having to look at what we can give up now and most of its just amenities but if we have to give up more for phasing, its going to be a huge slash at that point.”
The project comes with a $4.2 million price tag. Coen said more donations will be sought and believes they will reach their goal.
“$4.2 million is the total cost which includes some of the in-kind gifts which has reduced the total amount of cash we will need,” he said. “We would still like to raise another couple hundred thousand dollars so that we can provide everything we promised. I think we can do that. I have every confidence in the group that’s working on this and in this community.”
Coopey said the lack of parking could force him to make some hard decisions about his business.
“I don’t want to, it’s going to cost me at least $30,000, but that’s to shut my lunches off to give additional parking for other people around me and then my major parking would open at 4 o’clock at night,” he said. “With option two, it would draw enough attention and wouldn’t be nearly as bad.“
After the meeting, Coen said he thought it was productive and that the businesses concerns were heard.
“I felt good about it,” he said. “I felt that we provided information, that people started to get to a good place about the length of time the alley will be closed. I know that’s an issue. Parking is going to be an issue, but we will do everything we can to mitigate that and as problems arise during the construction project we’ll try to address that. And I hope that people in the community will continue to patronize these individuals on the west side of the 100 block of S. Main.
“Main street is our life blood and we don’t want to do anything that harms them, but in the long run, doing this project will be beneficial to the whole community and to Main Street as well. I just want people to be willing to walk a little bit further. If you have to walk two blocks instead of one or you can’t park in front of a store, you can still get there and I encourage people to do that.”
Business owners are expected to give their recommendation on the three options at the 4 p.m. study session. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday.