DOWNERS GROVE – Three years ago, Norm Sidler and his wife moved out of their home and into a condominium in downtown Downers Grove. The distance between their new and old residence is not much, only six blocks, Norm said. Like most empty nesters and older couples, they opted to downsize into a conveniently located place that’s easier to maintain.
But living in a condo has revealed a challenge. The Sidlers have two cars and their condo offers only one parking spot per unit. So one of them – usually Norm – has to park his car elsewhere.
“My wife has it a lot better than I do,” he said, laughing. “I pay for parking in the village lot, and it’s not that far away. I don’t mind walking, but [on] occasions, you know, you’d like to be closer.”
Though the issue is manageable between him and his wife, Norm said the real problem is when they have family and friends come over. With businesses, restaurants, residential properties and special events popping up all over downtown Downers Grove, the fight for parking spots increases daily, especially on the weekends or during special events.
For instance, the Summer Nights Classic Car Show, which takes place Friday evenings in late May and runs until the end of August, poses an issue for many locals. The car show is an annual tradition that occupies Main and Curtiss streets and draws in families from throughout the region.
“We certainly do hear complaints and concerns from residents, from other people, who might be just trying to run an errand or stop by,” Downers Grove Deputy Village Manager Michael Baker said.
At a June 5 open house hosted by the village, Baker and parking consultant David Burr heard the Sidlers’ complaints, along with many others. Baker and Burr, a parking planning director from Rich & Associates, have teamed up and are working closely with village staff and community members to better understand why parking downtown is so difficult. Using their feedback, Burr is conducting a study to help village officials resolve the problems at hand.
“What do you do when the kids come and visit?” Burr said, repeating a question some have asked him. “They want to spend time with mom and dad.”
Currently, the village has several surface parking lots, some on-street parking and a multi-level parking deck. Baker and Burr said the deck located on Curtiss Street offers more than 700 spaces, and while that may seem plenty, it is always filled to capacity.
Burr said the village does allow overnight parking for guests around the downtown area, including the parking deck, the lots near the Main Street and Belmont Road train stations and throughout the business district. Those spaces, however, are limited and often capped.
Employees who work downtown also are heavily impacted by the lack of parking spaces as well. While some employees have gone to the lengths of purchasing parking permits, they still struggle to find an open spot.
“The available lots are full,” Burr said. “They try to go to the spaces in the garage, that’s full. They’re circling, trying to find a spot and calling their employer, ‘I’m looking for a parking space. I’ll be there as soon as I can.’”
The hassle, the trouble and the inconveniences continue to pile up.
For Baker and Burr, the recent open house was just a step toward creating a solution. Within the next few weeks, Burr and his team will take a closer look at downtown Downers Grove.
Among the items on their to-do list are tallying up the number of parking spots available, determining downtown’s busiest times and collecting more insight from community members.
Burr is expected to return in July or August to present his findings. Until then, downtown residents, visitors, employees and commuters are encouraged to participate and fill out a brief survey, which is available on the village’s website at www.downers.us.
“We start the discussion,” Burr said of his purpose, adding that he aims to find the answer to one question. “What is going to work for the village?”