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New downtown Aurora parking plan in effect starting Tuesday

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Updated: June 11, 2013 6:29AM

AURORA — Downtown parkers can officially leave the quarters at home next week, as downtown’s new parking plan will be in full effect starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Weather permitting, the very last of downtown’s estimated 900 parking meters will be out before 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to city spokesman Dan Ferrelli, one day after the new parking enforcement hours and rules will be enforced.

“Like any other ordinance that is changed, we expect people to follow the new provisions,” Ferrelli said Thursday. “We believe that with six to eight signs posted on every block and clear signage in the parking lots that people will be able to easily ascertain which time limits apply.”

Downtown developer Dan Hites said that the parking revamp of the city’s 7,000 spots downtown — including spots at the Aurora Transportation Center — was something downtown business owners really pushed.

“So we’re ecstatic,” Hites said of meter-free street parking. “We think it’s going to go a long way to change the image of downtown.”

It’s one more thing that gives downtown a friendlier vibe as the new RiverEdge Park is set to open in June, he said.

The city has installed about 200 new signs ahead of the new parking enforcement rules. Downtown street parkers can find those signs posted at the beginning, middle and end of each block on both sides of street. City crews have been working to remove old signage and meters and install new signage ahead of the parking change for the past three weeks.

But if downtown patrons have issues with the new parking plan, they should speak out, Ferrelli said.

“We realize there will be a learning curve with the new regulations from both businesses and motorists in the central business district and invite both sides to provide feedback so that we can react to any unforeseen challenges,” he said. Residents can reach out to the city at 630-256-INFO.

The plan

New parking zones downtown and increased enforcement hours begin Tuesday.

In addition to the elimination of parking meters downtown, downtown will be divided into parking zones — platinum, gold, silver, bronze and mercury — each indicating the amount of time a car could be parking at the location before it is fined.

Parking will be free within the allotted time, which will be marked with street signs. Current rates at metered spots range between 15 and 25 cents per hour.

In downtown street parking zones, parking under the plan in effect Tuesday is 90 minutes in a platinum zone; two hours in a gold zone; two hours in a silver zone; three hours in a bronze zone and five hours in a mercury zone.

In downtown parking lots, parking is two hours in a gold zone; three hours in a silver zone; six hours in a bronze zone and 10 hours in a mercury zone.

The Stolp Island parking garage will offer free parking for up to one hour and a paid parking rate for downtown patrons who need a longer parking solution.

The city will also increase on-street enforcement hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Off-street parking lots will be enforced 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Parking is prohibited in city lots or on downtown streets between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless a resident purchases an overnight parking permit for $5 per month.

Currently, parking is enforced 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Friday.

For now, meter enforcement officers will be chalking tires until electronic license plate readers are fully operational, Ferrelli said.

The new monthly fee for a gold plus and gold parking lot passes is $35; silver lots is $25; bronze lots is $15.

Businesses react

Business owners and operators on Downer Place who have witnessed a few months of meter-free parking on the street have had positive reviews of the change.

Reece Boyd, manager of River’s Edge Cafe, said the removal of the parking meters on Downer, which happened earlier this year in conjunction with the Downer bridges reopening, have been a “really positive” move for the street.

“The combination (of the removal of meters) with the one-way street to a two-way and a shorter crosswalk has made for an overall more pedestrian-friendly area,” Boyd said. “We see a lot more new faces from Waubonsee (in the cafe) recently and a general overall interest in what’s going on on the street.”

About three weeks ago, parking on Downer outside of the cafe switched from two-hour to 90-minute zones as identified by signs on the street. Boyd said the move to a tighter time zone was mostly to deter Waubonsee students from using the parking spots. The downtown campus is nearly across the street.

“They wanted to deter (using street parking) and it’s working so far,” Boyd said.

Cafe staff does field questions about the new parking plan, but the 90-minute time frame generally works for patrons who are running in for coffee or lunching.

“And if they are in need of a longer term solution, like an (extended) meeting, I think it’s worth their time to pay to park in the (Stolp) parking garage,” Boyd said.

Dr. Kishore Belani, a dentist at Aurora Dentrix at 57 E. Downer Place, said the 90-minute zone in effect outside of his office works out better than the 60-minute parking meters that were in place before, but not as well as a two-hour zone would. He’s been in practice on Downer for 35 years, he said.

“In my case, it’s very inconvenient for a patient (getting a) root canal to move their car on the street,” Belani said. Instead, he directs patients to use the nearby Water Street lot.

Downtown’s Tecalitlan Restaurant on the corner of Downer Place and Broadway was still straddled by a meter-free zone on Downer and meters on Broadway this week.

Manager Guillermina Valencia said the 90-minute zones have worked out well for her lunch crowd. The business has been at that location for 18 years and downtown for 34 years, she said.

“They like that the meters are not there,” she said at the family-owned business. “(The parking plan) will work if they enforce it.”

Waubonsee thoughts

Waubonsee officials were keenly involved in the launching of a new parking plan and are strong supporters of the plan, said Waubonsee Community College spokesman Jeff Noblitt.

“The city has been highly collaborative and transparent in its process so the new plan should be something everyone can rally behind,” Noblitt said.

Noblitt said he expects the new parking plan to minimally impact the downtown campus on River Street between Galena Boulevard and Downer Place. The college has had its own parking agreement in place with the city since 2011 when the new downtown campus opened, he said, and that won’t change.

Free longterm student parking is provided several blocks north of the campus in Lot W.

“Since students have designated parking, we do not plan to share the city’s parking plan with students,” Noblitt said. The college will share information with campus staff so they are aware of the new parking plan, he said.

Paramount situation

Tim Rater, executive director of the Paramount Theatre, said the theater’s patrons utilize a few different parking options: on the street, in surface lots, in the Stolp Island parking garage, the Hollywood Casino garage or they valet park. Theater patrons also have access to park in downtown bank parking lots after hours, he said.

Rater expects the new parking plan to work out well for out-of-town theater patrons as well as for other events the theater hosts. The two-hour zones in downtown’s dining corridors allow for enough time for patrons to park at 6 p.m., dine and stay for a show, as enforcement expires at 8 p.m., he said.

“They really are spread out all over the place. If we find that things don’t work out perfectly, the plan (leaves room) for modifications on a block-by-block basis,” Rater said.

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