Downtown Renovations Spark Parking Debate

In discussing whether to approve a special permit needed to move forward with renovation plans for the former M&I buildings in downtown Port Washington, some officials raise concerns about parking needed for such developments.

A debate surrounding the planned height of the former M&I buildings as part of its renovations quickly turned to lower ground as several aldermen raised concerns about parking issues the addition could create.

The council approved the special permit on Tuesday allowing developer Gertjan van den Broek to move forward with plans for the buildings at 122 N. Franklin St. — the property will reach 48 feet in height at its tallest point and city code only allows buildings to be 35 feet in height.

That approval, however, came after a lengthy debate over whether the council was putting the cart before the horse by granting the permit.

The height allows the developer to build its planned 18 condos, as well as retail space on the first floor, with a parking ramp for some cars below the structure — but Ald. Jim Vollmar said he's concerned the condos won't sell without adequate reserved parking, and the city certainly can not give up much of its currently public spots. 

"How are we going to provide parking for these people?" he said. "I think this request is premature. I want this to be a great project for the city, I think (van den Broek has) got a great start. I think he needs to do a little more homework. … I think he needs to have some assurance from the city (on what parking is available)." 

But City Administrator Mark Grams said he doesn't think finding parking is an issue in the city, and that van den Broek is aware of some of the options that will be available to his tenants. 

"There's not a parking issue, there are spaces that are available," Grams said, adding that condo owners could apply for overnight permits in the nearby lots, as one option, or — at worst — have a short walk to get home. 

"People are willing to park a block or two away," in places such as Cedarburg, he added. 

Ald. Dan Becker pointed out that determining the height of the building is actually important to do first because "that obviously dictates the parking they will need."

Do you think parking is an issue in Port?

Tell us in the comments.

Rik Kluessendorf February 11, 2013 at 09:36 PM
As a downtown resident, I can see how the city can justify that parking isn't a problem right now... but only for about 8 months out of the year. For those other four months, if parking were not an issue, my wife and I wouldn't have to chase cars away from parking directly across the driveway we are fortunate to have. That is an event that happens about a half dozen times per summer, minimum, especially on weekends when we have fishermen enjoying our lakefront like we want them to. Parking gets worse as we add people to the mix, which (I thought) is what we want to do in downtown. I guess that if downtown Port stays sleepy, we may not have to worry too much about parking...
Terry February 12, 2013 at 10:04 AM
How can parking be an issue if we continue on our plan of driving business out and discouraging those who wish to replace them? Empty store fronts do not require all that much parking.
MB February 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM
If you're talking businesses, you need parking for customers and well as the employees. Two hour meters means employees need to move their cars several times to avoid the parking nazi from ticketing them. This might involve moving up one parking spot or driving around looking for another available spot. So, many times employees park where customers could. If the city wants to bring in business, they need to consider everyone who will need parking.
Julia February 12, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Grams is right. Parking in Port is a dream, compared to any larger city! A few blocks is nothing, certainly no reason to delay development. I hope the city isn't wasting too much time discussing this. Rik, hopefully you can figure out a way to mark your driveway more obviously, perhaps planters or put up a small attractive "driveway" sign.
Greg February 12, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Cedarburg is not really a big city. Parking is a major planning issue, if people are expected to park two blocks away the downtown will draw fewer visitors. Add a two block walk to the already long walk for those that visit the Coal Dock. I'm not saying that the development should not happen, just that planning is important to development success.
Mike Groll February 13, 2013 at 01:38 AM
How can you sell a condo with "nearby" parking? I can picture the dialogue now.. Q:Where would I be parking? A:Uh nearby...not too far...coupla blocks tops Q:And I can park there anytime I need to? A:Uh, sure... usually no problems with festivals or anything like that and you get lots of fresh air, even in winter! Q:Heck, I'll take it man! Maybe we can build some of that light rail and have a few extra roundabouts down here so I can go from my hipster condo to my even hipper super secure off-site parking in balmy downtown Port!
Kathy February 13, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Care to hear my comments as a handicapped resident? Grab some ear plugs. I'll be back later....:0)
Mike Groll February 14, 2013 at 01:19 AM
I am certainly ready, any comment you have has been pretty darn good so far :)
Mike Groll February 14, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Not sure I like Al Frankens IQ of a toaster face on my screen though
Jim February 14, 2013 at 03:48 PM
obviously Mr Grams is used to having his own personal parking spot. Parking is a big issue we have store employees,residents and consumers to park downtown. Count how many open spots that are available, the numbers dont match. The city should look at the property they are swapping Mr Ewig with and build a 2 or 3 level parking structure.
Kathy February 15, 2013 at 01:53 AM
Why Thank You Mr. Groll! I know that cripples are not in City Business Plan, we are not the proper and correct demographic. How do I know this? I served on Habitat for Humanity Board, the city fought a build tooth and nail. Cripples are NOT known for our disposable cash. I am disable or like I say "Differently-abled." How many Handicapped parking spots are downtown on Wisconsin or Grand? Yes, some of the parking lot area's have handicapped spots. The post office has one, and the old courthouse has a few in front. The remaining are on side streets. I'm sure this JUST meets A.D.A, laws. Handicapped tags are given to people who cannot walk more then 50 feet. Not all handicapped people use wheelchairs and not all that do have the shweet electric powered ones. I'm still using my arm powered one because I force myself to walk as much as I can tolerate. If I can find an open spot in front of a shop, I generally can get away with using my cane - Oh happy day..Until I get to a shop with steps - but that is another issue. The Beautification of downtown and the placement of the planters and tree's makes it very difficult for the Shared Taxi vehicles to park and let off a wheelchair client. I know, I use to drive for the company and now a regular passenger. My most disturbing experience with city titled folk was December 23, 2011. While at the county Highway department I parked in a handicapped spot. (Con't) SEE: Parking Rants from a Cripple
Kathy February 15, 2013 at 02:09 AM
)Con't) Parking Rants from a Cripple I parked in the handicapped spot at the Cty Hwy Dept. I was an employee of the Shared taxi. It was the first time I had ever opted to use the spot, as stated I like to walk as much as I can. On that day my legs very wobbley, my handicapped tag displayed in window. No sooner do I enter and two county workers are telling me I have to move my vehicle. I laugh and tell them that I have a handicapped tag. I'm told to bad they need to change a light on the building - Move the car now! I wobble back outside, move my car to the lot 40 feet further and slowly gimp my way back in. I have to walk back out to the lot to get in my vehicle. I called the Hwy Dept to complain. Jason's response " well there was another handicapped spot available, you could have parked there" No I could not, two other vehicles without tags were in the spots. One was city gov't courrier and don't know who else was there. Again, people with handicapped stickers are granted because they cannot walk more then 50 feet. The extra walking caused my syndrome to flare, that was my last day working. I had just opted to come back and try working again. I'm one of the rare ones on SSDI that wants to work. I was afriad the incident would happen again and I'd fall down then not being able to get back up, very typical when Im pushed to walk to far. The Hwy dept should be happy I did not sue, I had witnesses to the incident.
Kathy February 15, 2013 at 02:22 AM
Oh, I will not even start in on the cities efforts maintaining the sidewalk to street ramps. Well okay, twist my arm. If you have ever found yourself cursing at a wheelchair putt putt'n along on the street, that person is risking life and limb because many of the ramps if used will see a wheelchair stuck or the person face first on the road. On my way to vote at TJMS I found myself stuck on a ramp at corners of Holden and Beutel, thankfully I was able to catch me not doin a face first. Round of applause to the several drivers who at stop sign to busy on the phone to see if I needed assistance. *Groan* A big middle finger to the resident to lazy to walk from street to house , the car blocked the sidewalk. I found myself on Holden with arm power and a prayer - school was letting out and lots of traffic a block from the school. Much praise to the Port Police officer less then half block away who did not notice myself and school children forced into street because vehicle blocking sidewalk...it was still there on my return. Thats my long rant. You may remove ear plugs now. :)
Terry February 18, 2013 at 10:33 AM
City is not responsible for clearing those sidewalks and ramps. Its the responsibility of the property owner (unless it is the ramps and sidewalks adjacent to city buildings). As far as the county highway twits, you should have just blown them off. If you were legally parked and there on business, they can't make you move. You were just being too nice to people that clearly didn't deserve it.


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