Downtown Parking Ramp Options
Posted: January 16, 2015
When the downtown Eau Claire comprehensive parking study is completed next month, the Eau Claire city council will be faced with the option of building a three-story parking ramp or a four-level facility on the site where the former U.S. Postal Service building is currently located.
The Eau Claire City Council this week approved a resolution that allows the architect to continue working on plans for the $9.7 million North Barstow Parking Ramp. However, until the parking study is completed, nobody really knows whether the city will need a ramp that has 575 parking stalls or as many as 825 stalls.
The crux of the matter is two-fold: What is going to happen with Block 7, which is presently used as surface parking along North Barstow Street? And, how far are people willing to walk?
Andrew Miller, a senior planner with Kalamazoo, MI-based Carl Walker Inc., a parking consultant firm, told me that downtown Eau Claire has plenty of parking capacity. But what he didn't want to tell me is that too many times people who attend events in the downtown region do not want to walk very far to get to their destination. This means that one large, four-level ramp may be the most viable option.
On the other hand, if the existing Block 7 is only utilized for future housing, similar to what is occurring in other parts of the North Barstow Redevelopment District, then it is assumed that the developers of those residential complexes will provide parking for their tenants. If this occurs, then there may be no need for a fourth level of the parking ramp.
On any given weekend night in downtown Eau Claire, street parking is usually full to capacity. However, other parking lots in and around downtown are practically vacant, such as the lower level of the parking lot below the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library or the lot in front of the former Wood Motors building across from 505 Dewey Street South. There is also a parking area available most weekends at 7 South Dewey Street.
But each of these options would require walking. Unfortunately, many of us have become complacent and would rather park closer to an event or activity. Yet, I remember walking at least eight city blocks from my vehicle to go to Chicago Cubs' baseball games at Wrigley Field in Chicago. And I know I've walked at least that far to go to a Wisconsin Badger football game in Madison.
I guess it all depends on how far one is willing to walk.