Downtown business owners have mixed emotions about taking away any parking restrictions in downtown Pekin, but most agree that there needs to be some changes from the two hour limit now imposed.
The Pekin Traffic Safety Committee heard comments from approximately 15 downtown business owners at its meeting on Aug. 4. The committee agreed after listening to business owners that it would recommend a six-month trial period with no parking time limits in the business areas of downtown. Most owners were said to be supportive of the trial. Committee Chairman and Fire Chief Kurt Nelson said that if problems arise during the trial that need to be dealt with other options are open.
Nelson said he hopes to have the recommendation before the Pekin City Council by the Aug. 14 meeting.
Nora Lovell, owner of Peek In Pottery Ceramics & Art, said she started the drive to change parking downtown with a parking survey of business owners. She teaches pottery classes, so her patrons are there for more than two hours.
“Most everybody said three hours is great,” said Lovell. “For us right here, we may be here like two hours and 20 minutes to two- and-a-half hours, but they have to go and move the car.
“And then they come back, the kids are done, it’s another 20 minutes talking and then they have to turn around and leave again. So it’s kind of a pain in the butt. That extra hour is huge. And if you’re at (one of the ) salons, that extra hour could be huge. Getting a tattoo — same thing. Downtown used to be all retail and offices. Now it has turn(ed) more into a service community. You’re going in, you’re getting service for your hair, tattoo, with dance and yoga, this (pottery), so it’s more time involved. It’s not just going in and picking up a pair of shoes and leaving. Times have changed. Parking needs have changed.”
Unlimited parking, said Lovell, is not necessarily how business owners envision things.
“Needed?” said Lovell. “Probably — it depends.
“I think we are going to have some problems with it if (Tazewell) County employees don’t use their lot that they’re designated for. If they want to park on the street, that could be a problem. If everybody does what they should do, we should be fine. It’s well worth the effort. We’re talking six months. If it goes horribly south, like I said, we’re all fine with three hours.”
Lovell said they need to have specialized areas for jurors, attorneys or those who have court dates. She said a lot of the county lots are not being utilized and, if the county employees are not going to park there, open them up to shoppers.
“Open up lots that are a little bit more friendly close-wise,” she said.
Some lots are far away and crossing the heavy traffic of state routes can be dangerous. She said the city has suggested that business owners park in the city lots that are too far for customers to walk.
“I just don’t see that happening. We always (have things to carry in). And I just don’t want to risk my life crossing Ann Eliza Street. I’m not that quick anymore.”
Scott Au — owner of The Zone, a comics, collectibles and toys store in the 500 block of Court Street — has mixed feelings. He had five people in the store Friday that he said would likely be there for four to five hours. That, he said, is five parking spots taken up for a lengthy period of time. Au has parking in back of his store, so customers move their cars there. His neighbor’s customers need spots as well. He said if there is no parking limit “people are not moving.”
“Those spots will never be open for, let’s say, three hours, five hours, 10 hours — whatever the case may be,” said Au. “If there is a two-hour parking (limit), they have to go move their vehicles, so slots will open back up.
“I understand, like the hair places, they take a little more time, but I feel that if there’s no parking (limit), people just don’t have to move their cars. They can just leave them there overnight, whatever the case may be, but if there is a ban where there’s a limit there will be more customers coming in and out.”
Au said people in the taverns being mindful of drinking and driving will leave cars that will not be moved right away in the morning. Au said two hours is probably not enough and three is probably good. He said he will support the six-month trial.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin