Downtown business owners reacted Wednesday to a suggested change which could expand parking along Sixth Avenue.
“I’m very appreciative of the tax dollars the city invested down here. I really am. It looks beautiful,” said Brett Bjorn, who manages Mike Bjorn’s Fine Clothing, 5614 Sixth Ave.
“But,” Bjorn added, “I always say to other businesses, ‘What’s the No. 1 thing we need down here to survive? Parking.’ What did the city do? Less parking.”
Last summer’s downtown rehabilitation project implemented a city plan blocking drivers from parking in front of new, oversized planters placed curbside for trees. That significantly reduced available parking spaces for potential shop, restaurant and bar patrons. City officials thought customers could walk to storefronts from city parking lots. In some cases, that would mean walking two or more blocks.
That’s less likely to happen during the winter and on bad weather days, Bjorn said.
Consider a new option
At a special meeting last week, Public Works Department Deputy Director Brian Cater presented the City Council’s Public Works Committee with an option to address parking concerns.
Cater said they could remove the present parking space markings and let drivers park as they please, within state-mandated restrictions not allowing parking within 15 feet of crosswalks.
Lewis Aceto, owner-operator of S.J. Crystal’s Men’s Apparel at 5701 Sixth Ave., said the potted trees are part of the problem, whether or not the city removes the restrictions against parking in front of them. Because they’re so close to the curb, people still risk damaging their passenger doors if they hit the cement planters, which stand waist high to an average adult.
“Do it. But do it right,” Aceto said. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re going to do anything not to get rid of the planter pots.”
“I agree with Lewis,” said Leslie Klemens, who owns Gottfredsen & Nicoll Jewelers, 5708 Sixth Ave. “The way it’s set up right now, there’s not enough parking.”
Public Works Director Shelly Billingsley said only the existing markings for parking spaces will be removed by painting over or grinding them away, depending on those costs.
“The planters are still going to be there,” Billingsley told the Kenosha News. “It’s just going to be a wider range of parking without the stalls. Some people might choose to park up against the planters.”
Only spaces for handicapped parking would be marked.
More communication sought
Bjorn repeatedly stressed his appreciation for Mayor John Antaramian’s commitment to revitalize the downtown area, improve its appeal and attract more traffic to the businesses there.
Still, he said, he was disappointed in what he called “a lack of communication” from city officials regarding the construction project and the parking design.
“I want them to just say, ‘You know what, guys, we made a mistake,’” Bjorn said.