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Lincoln Daily News
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Businesses address Library/Community Parking Lot project

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To the editor:

Collectively representing over 200 years serving the community of Lincoln, we, a group of Lincoln downtown business owners, are currently concerned with the continued vitality of the downtown businesses the selves, as well as the health and safety of our clients and customers. "Downtown Revitalization" has become a common phrase in Lincoln, Illinois. The project to which it refers is a planned regeneration of the downtown Lincoln area. Many projects have been initiated, already costing taxpayers excessive tax dollars far beyond any grants that were received. We are writing today in concern of a project that is part of this revitalization and known as the "Library/ Pekin Street Parking/ Alley Improvement" project. This undertaking was initially voted down by Lincoln's City Council in June of this year but as recently been re-introduced for approval. Concerns with the project include the proposed closing of an alley, doing away with motor traffic. This move would limit the possibility for several businesses in this area to conveniently receive freight deliveries. The closing of this alley and the resulting rerouting of traffic would also cause safety and health concerns, the most important of which is the safety of the children and others who frequently use this alley to enter the library.

The alley in question lies behind several businesses located along the 600 block of Broadway Street. Currently the alley is used for delivery of supplies, as a location for trash receptacles for the businesses, and as a way for traffic to exit the parking lot. In addition, many people also use the back door to the businesses located along this alley. These include many elderly and handicapped customers. These entrances, in effect, render these businesses handicapped-accessible and are a necessity due to the fact that on the Broadway Street side, the steps into the storefronts from the street are very steep and it is difficult, if not impossible for them to enter there. Likewise, the walking path for children and others to use that leads to the children's library also lies within this parking lot area.

The proposed project will close the current alley and create a different parking layout, changing the pattern of traffic into and out of the parking lot, while creating only three new parking spaces. The only traffic entrance, as proposed, will be on Pekin Street, as it is currently, with the exit being on Mclean Street. All vehicular and truck traffic will be required to enter the Pekin Street entrance and exit via Mclean Street. The only exception is that delivery trucks will be required to back up from Mclean St, directly backward to a designated drop-off point located somewhere near the rear delivery entrance of MKS Jewelers. This backup point will cross the crosswalk used by children every day to access the library. Currently, a small percentage of vehicular traffic does use this area but it is important to remember that these vehicles have a visible stop sign and there is a crosswalk for pedestrians. The proposed reverse moving direction of trucks, including semis, increases the danger for children and others in the crosswalk, due to lack of good visibility on the part of the driver.

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In addition to concerns with the traffic pattern flow, there are also health concerns that are related to the reworking of this parking lot. For many years, several businesses located in this area have experienced an odor that they describe as a "sewer odor". This has been an ongoing problem, the effects of which have been noticed for many years. The problem has been brought to the attention of the city administration numerous times by various business owners. The original plan proposed for this parking lot included an attempt to correct this problem; however, the new plan does not. Business owners feel that now is the time to identify the reason for this odor (with the assistance of the EPA) and correct it while the parking lot/ alley is undergoing reconstruction. This could help avoid the necessity to spend future funds for yet another demolition to correct the problem. In addition to the sewer problem, this area is currently dangerous due to problems with roof drainage. This is a hazard for pedestrians as well as vehicle traffic, especially in the wintertime when ice accumulates and causes hazardous walking and driving conditions. This problem could be corrected by including a storm sewer in the renovation plans.

As business owners, we are in agreement that renovations are needed in the parking lot area. However, we feel that the efforts to close the alley, change the traffic flow, as well as the elimination of the sewer repairs from the project, fail to address the safety concerns of Lincoln's youngest citizens and the elderly, as well as the business owners themselves. In addition, we feel that the expense of the project, with projected costs at approximately $500,000.00, is something that should not become a burden for the citizens of Lincoln. We respectfully request that this project be tabled pending further communication and transparency between the city council and the downtown business community.

This project needs to benefit and address issues for the betterment of all and should include open dialogue in order to reach an agreeable conclusion.

Respectably submitted by Lincoln business owners,
Melody Shew
MKS Jewelers (35 years)

Jim and Lisa Drew
Sorrento's Pizzeria (47 years)

Heather Cosby
Flossie and Delzena's (1Yz years)

Greg and Julie Tarter
Mary Todd’s Hallmark (11years)
Merle Norman Cosmetics (20 years)
Tarter Brothers' Mechanical (30 years)

Jan Schact
YMCA (15 years)

Linda Aper
Thri-Vent Financial

Rainforth Family
Abe's (34 years)

Eileen Mullins
Sir Renna Tea

Dana Ellebracht
Treasures in Lincoln

[Posted October 07, 2016]

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