Posted: June 1, 2012
The increase in vehicular traffic near the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers started with development of the RCU headquarters complex and was enhanced with the creation of Phoenix Park. Over the past few years, Developers Geoff Moeding and John Mogensen have made considerable improvements that have created the need for more parking. And, now, with the four-story apartment complex under construction by Commonweal Development, there will be a major parking issue this summer in and around Phoenix Park.
The City of Eau Claire knew this would be an issue and it attempted to address the problem with the proposed parking lot under consideration for development across Phoenix Park, next to the existing Xcel Energy substation. Unfortunately, the North Riverside Neighborhood Association felt left out of the planning process and asked the city for more time to develop a long-term parking plan. So, for at least the next two months, parking will be an issue. Hopefully, the issue gets resolved by mid-June when the proposed parking lot is scheduled for approval.
Some of the Neighborhood Association's concerns are valid: How much of the prime riverfront property north of Madison Street should be allocated for parking in the long term? What safety problems could occur if pedestrians and bicyclists veer off the walkway beneath the Madison Street Bridge and instead want to cut across to Phoenix Park via East Madison Street? And, how many trees will be lost for the sake of parking lot development?
As much as we all complain about a lack of parking in downtown Eau Claire, I would like to think there will be a time when those who are able to walk/bike a couple of blocks may be more open to the walking or biking option if the event warrants attendance and the short trip is highlighted by the beautiful riverfront. And, if the event offers a free shuttle bus or other affordable means to be in attendance, then it's not that difficult to travel a few blocks.
In the meantime, as residents and visitors alike want to be part of the Phoenix Park experience this summer, there will be some congestion and longer walks to get to the event of choice. Hopefully, it's a problem that gets addressed so it's only an issue for one summer. But if the lack of parking is an issue for the foreseeable future, then either people won't attend events in Phoenix Park or getting to popular events in Phoenix Park will mean a short walk or bike ride is a necessary evil that really isn't that big of a deal.