PLATTEVILLE — The parking problem in downtown Platteville can be demonstrated by two numbers.
According to the city’s downtown parking map, the city has 1,934 parking stalls downtown.
According to a study by UW–Platteville civil engineering students, to meet the needs of downtown business customers and employees, plus downtown residents, the city needs 2,113 parking spaces downtown.
The problem becomes more acute when you add a third number: Of the city’s 1,934 downtown parking spaces, 1,170 are privately owned, leaving the city just 764 the city can regulate.
Those numbers are what the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Authority is wrestling with in its hope to get from downtown businesses a parking proposal.
The RDA held a meeting at the Mound City Bank Motor Branch Monday evening after a June 4 meeting between the RDA and downtown businesses.
Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Kopp noted that more than 11,000 people came to the Welcome Center on Business 151 last year, and “Our priority is to funnel those people downtown.”
But, Kopp added, “When we have repeat visitors that come, I hear this all the time — ‘your downtown is the most unmanageable downtown we’ve ever seen.’
“I’m just hoping the final plan is as [simple] as possible to those not familiar with the downtown … make it as easy and business-friendly as possible.”
Ideas on how to deal with downtown parking ranged from enforcing existing regulations more firmly to creating new parking permits to building parking ramps.
But Bill McBeth, owner of the Driftless Market, 95 W. Main St., said stiffening enforcement is “a temporary fix. … The real issue here is what’s causing this, and that player is not in this room with us, and that player is the university.”
RDA board member Wendy Brooke noted the UW–Platteville student survey showed that for people looking for a place to park, there is “a two- to three-block area that people are willing to walk, and that’s about it.”
“Parking is systemic,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus, chair of the RDA. “If you push in one place, it bubbles up in another place.”
The predicted example of that is what happens after UW–Platteville’s Rountree Commons opens this fall. Though it is located on Southwest Road, the new dormitory has residents concerned that downtown parking will shrink even more.
The meeting did clarify what UW–Platteville has done for parking at Rountree Commons. Daus said UW–Platteville allocated 450 parking spots for the dorm, including in its lots off Southwest Road, on Jay Street, and behind Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium. Two other UWP lots are being expanded, and 70 additional spaces are being rented at McGregor Plaza.
Those 520 spots “exceeds the number that would be called for in our ordinance,” said Daus.
The meeting also clarified the reason that parking south of Pine Street now requires a permit. Brooke said the permit system was established because of the concerns of homeowners south of Pine Street.
“I believe the residents in that area believe that just because spots have been allocated doesn’t mean I’m going to park there,” said Daus. “I guess that’s human nature. You want to park as close as you can as cheap as you can.”
Going to permits eliminated parking for downtown residents who had been parking south of Pine Street.
“Fifty cars that park there at a busy time of year are going to go someplace,” said Richard Christensen, who lives at 10 S. Third St.
Rental property owner Mark Ihm was given four parking permits for his 12 units.
“Why are permits given to landlords?” he asked. “Either give every tenant that can prove they live there a permit, or don’t make me administer it.”
The meeting also revealed parking problems that are less apparent.
“We never know when we’re going to be busy, and the city’s always good at letting us know about special events,” said Terry Schwartz of Martin–Schwartz Funeral Home, 100 Park Place. “With our business, it’s at need — when someone passes away, we never know when we’re going to need parking slots.”
Martin–Schwartz’s building has been a funeral home since it was built in 1942. Parking has never been available in front of the building, since Lancaster Street is also Wisconsin 81.
“If you want another viable business in the city, we need some help here,” said Schwartz.
The meeting featured ideas that might have been considered too radical to be proposed in public a few years ago.
RDA board member Chuck Runde noted that UW–Platteville requires students pay for parking, but “downtown here, we seem like we can’t charge for parking. We need to get rid of our double standard for parking.”
“The university is like a business and they get to decide where they charge or not,” said Glen Bahr, co-owner of Erschen’s Florist, 10 W. Main St. “Suddenly to impose more fees on us, when we’ve got property taxes and inspection fees … that’s tough enough.”
Main Street Executive Director Jack Luedtke suggested “more rigorous enforcement of the current rules,” particularly those who park more than two hours in two-hour spots. Enforcement “is not consistent; it is not enforced on Saturdays, which are busy days.”
Ihm said the city should find a way to use existing privately owned parking.
“I think you could bring private stalls under regulation,” he said, noting that parking at the Elks Club, 50 S. Oak St., “sits empty all day” Mondays through Thursdays. “We have an overabundance of private stalls — why not subject them to management? Have a parking authority like they do in major cities.”
“The RDA cannot tell or allocate or determine or regulate how someone who has private property allocates their parking spots,” said Daus.
Insurance agent Tom Kratochwill has a plan to reconfigure downtown parking by reducing from two hours to one hour parking on Main Street; the first north and south blocks of Court Street, Bonson Street, Fourth Street and Third Street; the first and 100 blocks of North Second and North Oak Street, and the first block of South Second and South Oak Street. The lot on the southeast corner of North Third Street and Mineral Street would be a two-hour lot.
Monthly parking permits would be issued for the lots on the southwest side of North Third and Mineral and the lot at North Oak and East Main Street.
Street parking on several streets north of Mineral Street would require paid permits — initially $10 to $20 per month allowing parking from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., freeing evening parking for downtown businesses while reducing the number of employees who move their cars every two hours. Revenue would be used to build a parking ramp at the parking lot on Pine Street between South Bonson and South Fourth Street.
There appear to be two points of consensus about downtown parking, the first being that there isn’t enough of it.
The second, said Daus, is that Main Street is “an incredibly important corridor area for our businesses,” and that overnight parking should be “farther away from that corridor of shopping.”
City parking maps and parking regulations are available at the city’s website, www.platteville.org.