Joliet parking study may include look at free parking

City Council approves $151,500 assessment of downtown parking study

The possibilities for free parking could be among the issues evaluated in a $151,500 downtown parking assessment being done in Joliet.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the parking study to be done by WGI, Inc.

The city earlier this year sold one of its two downtown parking decks to developer John Bays who wanted the garage to provide free parking to tenants for his office space. Bays told city officials that parking is the biggest issue in attracting business downtown.

Bays paid $151,000 for the Scott Street deck, and that money is being used to pay for the study.

City Manager James Capparelli raised the question of free parking during a brief discussion of the study at the council workshop meeting on Monday.

“The schools of thought are, do we charge for parking? Do we not charge for parking?” Capparelli said to the council.

Capparelli said after the meeting that potential for free parking downtown remains an unanswered question.

There were no questions from the council at that meeting or Tuesday before they voted 6-0 to approve spending for the assessment. The council’s Public Service committee had previously recommended approval of the study.

The primary focus of the assessment will be repairs needed at both the Ottawa Street and Scott Street decks.

The city agreed in its deal with Bays, which was approved in May, to include the Scott Street deck in the study. Bays will be provided a structural analysis of the Scott Street deck.

The city had a study done of both decks in 2015 that showed the Scott Street deck needed $915,000 in repairs. City officials cited that study before selling the deck to Bays, saying the building had no value. No appraisal was done of the deck before it was sold in the no-bid deal.

Other components of the study, according to a staff report, include:

• recommendations for improved parking access and equipment at the Ottawa Street deck;

• recommendations for security enhancements at both decks and at the city’s surface parking lots;

• recommendations for streamlining operations for the entire downtown parking system.

“The goal of the parking management plan is to provide a seamless, efficient, customer-friendly, cost-effective parking operation for the city and have the capability to expand and integrate the latest technology,” the staff report said.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News