Downtown study about 20 percent complete
By Angie Landsverk
Data collection continues for Waupaca’s downtown parking study as the city prepares for the future reconstruction of Main Street.
The second parking count took place last week, with the third and final count scheduled to take place in December. The first one was in August.
“The key to a successful downtown is always going to be the same. If you have a downtown that is a destination, people will come, regardless of the type of parking,” said Kelly Conolly.
Conolly, of Sam Schwartz Engineering, made that comment during the Oct. 27 Downtown Business Forum at Farmers State Bank.
Approximately 20 people attended the forum. Most of them were either owners of downtown businesses or representatives of the city.
“This is the beginning steps,” said Brennan Kane, the city’s development director.
In August, the city contracted with Sam Schwartz Engineering, of Chicago, for the parking study.
The city is also in the process of obtaining proposals for both a downtown master plan and a market study.
Kane heard rumors circulating downtown that the parking study is done. It is probably about 20 percent complete, he said.
The engineering firm will analyze the city’s current on-street and off-street parking and make recommendations for current and future needs.
It expects to present its final plan to the common council in April or May.
“We’re a transportation-focused planning firm. We do a lot of parking studies and a lot of downtown work,” Conolly said.
She said many plans focus not only on parking, but also on the walkability of a downtown.
During the Oct. 27 forum, Conolly polled those in attendance, asking why they go downtown, how long they stay there on a typical visit, how they would describe downtown parking and other questions specifically related to parking.
Some of the questions included asking what they would do if a parking spot was not available immediately in front of their destination, if they would move their vehicle when going to other destinations downtown and if the type of parking space influences where they decide to park.
Interest in and concerns about what happens to downtown parking came out of the city’s recent downtown visioning process, Conolly acknowledged.
That process took place over the course of a year and ended last spring with a downtown vision plan.
The Downtown Waupaca Visioning Committee did not reach a consensus on how parking and pedestrian spaces should be designed.
The parking alternatives considered for Main Street were the present angled parking, parallel parking and a combination of angled and parallel parking.
With no consensus, a parking study was recommended.
Conolly, the project manager for Waupaca’s study, said its purpose is to provide an unbiased opinion.
Each of the three parking counts will include data from the morning, midday, afternoon and evening for on-street and off-street parking.
The firm is also looking at private parking lots.
Over the next two months, shopper surveys will be completed, she said.
After collecting all the data, they will analyze it and identify deficits and surpluses.
In addition to shopper surveys, public input will be sought through an online survey on the city’s Main Street website, during interviews with community stakeholders and at another public workshop, Conolly said.
During this month’s forum, several commented on their desire to see angled parking remain on Main Street.
Pat Fletcher, of Fletcher’s Jewelry, said one of her customers that day was a 92-year-old woman who drives.
She noted the aging population in the community and how it is easier for them to angle park. Library Director Peg Burington also said they need to keep those demographics in mind.
Someone said if he had to walk more than a block, he would not go downtown.
Tim Drake, of Lucky Tree, wonders how many parking spaces are taken up by people who live or work downtown.
Conolly said that will be part of the data collection.
When Kane asked whether those in attendance were thinking about residents or also about tourists and if that has an effect, Fletcher said their business does not just draw tourists.
She said a woman from Winchester drives here to shop instead of going to the Fox Cities and said she would consider that person to be part of the local category.
Kent Pegorsch, of Main Street Marketplace, said 95 percent of their customers are from a 10-mile radius.
Parking problems are sometimes perception problems, Conolly said.
She also said successful downtowns choose walkability over providing a parking spot in front of every building.
“I’ve driven down your street,” Conolly said.
She said Waupaca’s Main Street does not have the feeling of a “slow down type of street” but “definitely has more of a faster lane feel.”
Kane noted it is probably tied to the fact that it is the old U.S. Highway 10 and thus has wider lanes.