David Horn addresses citizen concerns about the design of the new parking lot for the Decatur Public Library
In recent days, there have been newspaper articles and e-mails expressing concerns about the plans for the new library parking lot (the approved design can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-counc…/council-meetings/ and viewing the agenda for the July 15, 2019 meeting). I wanted to address the concerns that have been raised.
The parking lot design the city council approved will: 1) provide the appropriate level of parking for the library, 2) allow the library, if it chooses, to incorporate unique outdoor programming, and 3) dramatically improve the appearance of the eastern half of downtown that is need of revitalization.
PARKING AVAILABILITY: Between the new parking lot, spaces on E. Main St., and the parking garage immediately south of the library, there is the capacity to meet the parking needs of the library patrons and staff. Based on conversations with various city entities and at city council meetings, it appears that city staff is ready to: 1) provide ample parking in the garage for library staff and patrons unable to park in the parking lot, 2) have signage indicating the availability of overflow parking in the garage, and 3) repaint crosswalks and street parking lines on E. Main St. as necessary so that individuals are aware of the parking spaces available.
While the number of spaces in the new parking lot will be reduced, there is evidence that demand for parking may be in decline. Since 2010, the City of Decatur has experienced a population decline of over 6%, and this may be influencing library usage. According to the City of Decatur's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2018, there has been a decline in the number of library items loaned each year from 638,186 items in 2010 to 309,694 in 2018 (51% decline).
BETTER USE OF PUBLIC PROPERTY: Maintaining a large parking lot that is underutilized is not the best use of public property. For this reason, I was very supportive of adding three greenspaces to the library parking lot. This is particularly the case given the availability of parking in the garage to the south. It is a shorter walk from the garage to the library entrance than it is to the east greenspace to the entrance. There may also be some advantages for patrons and employees parking in the garage particularly during snowy winter days where cars should remain snow free and on hot sunny days where cars remain in the shade.
GREENSPACES CAN HELP REVITALIZE THE AREA: The eastern half of downtown is in need of transformation. The large greenspace on the east side has an opportunity to help make this part of our city much more attractive, and green spaces can improve mental and physical health of our citizens. Many of the local experts in greenspaces have been contacted to assist and I hope the city will take advantage of their expertise to create eye-popping greenspace. I also hope that the library staff and library board will take advantage of the north and south green spaces to create distinctive outdoor library programs that couldn't have done otherwise.
With the library at the center, we really have an opportunity to create a game-changing area for the City of Decatur.