Library receives grant for permeable parking lot

WESTCHESTER – Westchester Public Library will get a new permeable parking lot to prevent future flooding as part of a grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The library has flooded three times since 2007, said library director Fidencio Marbella. The library looked at installing a green roof to absorb rain, but concluded the roof wouldn’t be able to support the weight. An alternative was a permeable parking lot. Elmhurst-based Conservation Design Forum helped the library with its grant application, which was approved in mid-September. 

The existing lot will be resurfaced with a pavement that will look similar to a brick road but smoother – and with gaps that allow water to pass into a substrate. During a two-inch rainfall, the pavement will enable almost 100 percent of water to get absorbed back into the earth, said Fidencio Marbella, the library’s director.

“It’s almost like a demonstration project for the community,” he said. “‘Look, you can do this kind of thing with your own business.’”

The ability to promote similar projects was a key factor in the library receiving one of the 13 Illinois Green Infrastructure Grants. Marbella said there were 66 applicants for the grants. 

As a recipient, the library will receive $163,099, which will fund about 75 percent of the 15,000 square-foot parking lot. The rest will come from other grants the library plans to apply for or its capital fund, Marbella said. 

A filter under the pavement will improve water quality by eliminating waste and pollutants. Any water not absorbed into the earth will flow into a system of pipes that connects to the existing sewer system.

“I think it’s going to be a great project for the community just because I think it can be an educational opportunity,” said Marbella, adding that any business or organization can improve stormwater runoff with additions like a permeable parking lot. 

The library will issue a request for proposals from contractors in the spring. The project could be complete by next fall, but the grant gives the library two years to complete it, Marbella said.