The grants include one for $675,000 through the Illinois Department
of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and another from the Illinois
Department of Transportation in the amount of $1,875,000.
Lisa Kramer of Prairie Engineers of Illinois was on hand to talk
to visitors at the open house and conduct the public hearing that
took place immediately following.
The open house and public hearing were a part of the "community
involvement" portion of the grant application. Kramer collected
names at both events, as well as input from community leaders and
area business owners as to what they would like to see the money
used for if the grants are awarded to the city of Lincoln.
During the public hearing portion, business owners took the
podium and expressed their support of the grant applications.
Also, every person who spoke expressed one common concern for the
future of the downtown area, and that was the need for more parking.
This topic also spilled over into the workshop session of the
city council as options were discussed on how to improve what exists
and where to find more parking in the downtown area.
At the public hearing, Roger Matson of Action Rental and Sales
responded first to a question from the mayor regarding the downtown
Matson said that a lack of parking was a hindrance to several of
the businesses on and around the square. He noted in particular that
on the Broadway side of his business, Absolute Harmony, which is
located just to the west of him, does not have sufficient parking
for its business.
He noted that especially for the older clientele, there is no
place close by where a person can access a walkway that is compliant
with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Matson said he allows
Absolute Harmony customers to park in his loading zone area so that
they can gain access to the sidewalk, using the alley between the
Another business owner, Barb Reinwald of the Treasure Chest, said
that one of the biggest problems she has in her part of town is that
other businesses allow their employees to park in the spaces near
her building. She said it's a problem that her customers have told
her straight-out deters them from coming to her store.
As the discussions continued, it became apparent that this same
problem was occurring all over the downtown area, plus there is an
issue with county employees using the public spaces around the
square when they have their own designated parking in the municipal
lot behind the Arcade Building.
At the moment there doesn't seem to be any easy solution to these
problems. As business owners spoke on the subject, they first wanted
greater consideration from other business owners. They felt that
employees should not be allowed to take up parking spaces in front
of stores and thought that the employees as well as the business
owners should understand that doing this hindered shoppers.
They also felt that the county employees should be more
considerate and use designated parking spaces or one of the
And, if it could be found, they want more spaces.
If the city would win the grant awards, the idea of more spaces
might be feasible.
One of the requirements of the grants the city is applying for is
to identify and remedy blighted portions of the downtown area.
Remedies for such blighted areas could be refurbishing a property
and making it into a useful retail area, or it could mean
demolition. Demolition would take place only if the blighted
property were deemed irreclaimable.
However, if a building did have to be demolished, that could be
an opportunity to replace it with a public parking area.
[to top of second column]
When Rohlfs spoke, she also added that she was not opposed to
"going up." She said that if the city was going to continue to grow
the downtown business area, and if Main Street was going to
encourage building owners downtown to refurbish their second-floor
areas into living space, the demand for parking would only increase.
She said that a two-level parking building was not unthinkable as
long as it was designed to be cohesive with the rest of the
Early in the discussion Snyder had referred to the parking
problem as a question of the chicken or the egg: Which comes first
-- more business creating a demand for more parking, or more parking
offering an opportunity for more business?
David Lanterman of Beans and Such addressed his comments to that
subject, saying that he felt there was no question that the downtown
area cannot enjoy increases in business if there is no parking for
He added that if the city were to add parking, there would
probably at first be the perception that it wasn't needed, as it
would take a while for people to get accustomed to new space
available, and it would also take some time for potential shoppers
who had left, disappointed by the parking situation, to return.
In regard to an actual streetscape design, Kramer said that for
the grant applications, she is going to include some generic design
ideas to illustrate how the money would be used if awarded.
The actual end design will not be created until the city knows
whether or not they are going to receive the grant funding.
During the open house, Kramer showed visitors some examples of
streetscapes she had visited that were comparable to Lincoln, and
John Lebegue, the city's zoning and safety officer, offered a
desktop slide show of the streetscape of LaGrange, where the town
underwent a major overhaul of its downtown area, including new
facades on many of the buildings.
Rohlfs said that new facades are something that will be
considered in the downtown area, but that the designs will need to
adhere to the historic qualities that already exist.
She added that she doesn't know for sure yet how the money for
such improvements will be distributed. She believes, though, that
the best thing to do would be to offer business owners attractive
loans for the improvements.
She said it is important that the business owners have some kind
of sense of ownership in these projects. She also said that for the
city to front the money and tell the owners what to do with their
own buildings would be detrimental to the project as a whole.
Kramer expects to have the grant applications submitted by the
first of the month, and she said that learning the final outcome of
the applications could take as little as three months or as long as
[By NILA SMITH]