Library renovations to add green space, subtract parking spots

News

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Ongoing construction at the Decatur Public Library parking lot has some residents divided on the end result.  

The improvement project kicked off early last month, after city council members gave the OK on spending nearly $1 million on a new lot design that emphasizes “green spaces” throughout the lot. 

The green spaces — which some believe are a much-needed aesthetic improvement — come with a cost: dropping the number of available spots from 250 to 104. Of those 104, nine of them will be handicap parking spots. 

“It’s inevitable that we’ll lose some spots,” said DPL assistant city librarian Robert Edwards. “Truth be told, we had a lot of parking to begin with that wasn’t utilized a great deal of the time anyway.” 

It’s possible that when the lot is full, library employees may have to park in a city-owned garage that charges money.  

In an August 15 email to a Decatur resident obtained by WICA 3, city council member Lisa Gregory said that using that fact as an argument against the current design plan “doesn’t hold water for me.” 

“Currently, I pay $24 a month to park and then walk 5 blocks to work,” Gregory wrote. “If I wanted to be closer to work (2 blocks), I could pay $40 a month. I made the decision based on what my budget could afford. Much like the decision I made for the library parking lot…” 

Gregory continued, saying the decision to eliminate some parking spots in favor of more “green space”  is “not a negative reflection on the value of the library — it has to do with what the city could afford using taxpayer dollars.”  

Edwards said library officials have “worked hard to find (a) compromise” that visually improves the lot while leaving “options for us to explore with the city” regarding alternative parking. 

In addition to the library lot, there are around 90 street parking spots around the building. 

Some residents also expressed concern that accessible parking for senior citizens and families with small children would be lessened by the new plan.

In an email obtained by WCIA 3 to Novel Ideas bookshop owner Kim Soman Deatherage, whose bookshop once used the library lot for overflow parking, councilman Chuck Kuhle said if “major” problems arise with the new layout, “we can always take out some of the green space later and put in more parking lot in my personal opinion.” 

“The most compelling argument for this project is that we have an underused parking garage next door, so why spend citizen tax dollars on more parking?” he wrote. “…I feel we have made a good decision for the city.” 

Work on the parking lot renovations is slated to last through the end of November.

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