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Neighbors Want Parking Solution Before DePaul 'Woonerf' Gets OK

By Paul Biasco | October 9, 2013 7:45am
 Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) is proposing a Dutch-inspired "woonerf" design for Kenmore Avenue in the heart of DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus.
Kenmore woonerf
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LINCOLN PARK — The proposed "woonerf" that could replace a stretch of Kenmore Avenue on DePaul's campus faced neighborhood opposition Tuesday night, mostly based on the 47 parking spaces that would be eliminated under the plan.

Neighbors argued that implementing the Dutch-inspired street plan would push DePaul commuters and their cars into the surrounding neighborhood in search of spots.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) called the possible loss of the 47 spaces the No. 1 concern in an area where parking is "a very tight situation."

"It's probably a good time to look at the whole parking situation around DePaul," Smith said.

The woonerf plan, which Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Smith both stressed was not a done deal, would give cyclists and pedestrians the right of way on Kenmore between Fullerton and Belden Avenues.

 A rendering of the proposed Kenmore Woonerf on DePaul Unviersity's Lincoln Park campus.
A rendering of the proposed Kenmore Woonerf on DePaul Unviersity's Lincoln Park campus.
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DePaul University

The plan would raise the roadway to be level with the sidewalk and add new landscaping, benches and other elements to make the area a more livable space and connect the middle of campus, which is split by Kenmore.

DePaul has agreed to cover the cost of the 660-foot gently curving woonerf if it's OKd by the city, and proposes to make up for the parking by providing 47 spaces spread between three parking lots on campus.

Those spaces would be free for residents in the area, according to Bob Kozoman, executive vice president of DePaul.

Neighbors argued those spots wouldn't solve the problem of students parking along the neighborhood's tree-lined streets, where parking is governed by a patchwork of different permits and permitted times.

Some blocks require a permit from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., others require a city permit through 9 a.m. and others are free.

"I don't care if it's 47 spaces or 147 spaces. It's not just the students, it's the commuters who don't want to pay 36 bucks to park downtown," said Phil Anderson, who lives on Montana Street. "Something has to be done to dissuade students and non-residents from taking up spaces."

Waguespack said the initial renderings and proposal presented to about 60 neighborhood residents at a meeting Tuesday night were not the only ones DePaul was considering.

At least one other possible plan would allow for some parking on the street, he said, albeit less spots than is available now.

The street currently falls under Waguespack's ward, but under the city council's redrawn ward map, it soon will be in Smith's 43rd Ward, leaving the decision up to her.

Some neighbors in attendance applauded DePaul's effort to invest in the neighborhood and said the project would likely raise home values and beautify the campus.

DePaul "brings dollars and people to this area," said neighborhood resident Bob Berliner. "If it will enhance the experience of their students, I think it's something we ought to very seriously consider even if it might inconvenience a few of us, including me."

Berliner called the proposal exciting, charming, and a compromise from the plans presented a year ago to turn Kenmore into a car-free pedestrian "green."

If the neighborhood groups that meet monthly to discuss area issues are serious about addressing the patch-work parking regulations, the plan could be easily implemented, Waguespack said.

"We've been meeting with this group for a long time, but there was always a little hesitancy to do that," Waguespack said. 

The woonerf proposal could finally be what gets the ball rolling.

Some ideas included requiring permits to park on neighborhood streets 24 hours a day, while others suggested making DePaul's parking garages free or drastically cheaper for students to park in.

"Looking at this quilt-work map of parking is going to take a lot more time," Waguespack said. "There's no rush here. There’s no done deal."