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Parking study shows possible future of downtown Homewood

Homewood Parking Study area 2019-05_web
  This map shows the area included in a recent study of Homewood parking resources. (Provided photo)

Driving and parking in downtown Homewood may soon feel quite different. Village board members began looking at potential changes this month, as they reviewed the results of a recent parking study.

Last year, the village hired the transportation consulting firm Kenig, Lindgren, O’Hara, Aboona, Inc. to conduct a parking and traffic study of a specific portion of the downtown area. 

The firm conducted that study in September 2018, and KLOA’s Eric Russell presented the results to the village board at its May 14 meeting.

The study focused on an area extending from the Canadian National and Metra railroad tracks on the west and Gottschalk Avenue on the east. The junction where Harwood Avenue, Pine Road and Dixie Highway meet served as the northern border and Ridge Road was the border to the south. 

Within the 17 blocks included in the studied area, KLOA counted 214 on-street parking spaces.

The survey also included parking lots in the peripheral area. KLOA reported the village has six public lots with 260 spaces and 12 private lots with 1,049 spaces within the surveyed space.

KLOA monitored the parking lots and street parking areas during different times of the day and week, including on weekdays when court was and was not in session, and Saturdays with and without an event going on downtown. 

On-street parking occupancy never exceeded 50 percent, the firm reported. Public lots filled to 81 percent occupancy on Saturdays when events took place. That was peak occupancy during any of the study periods. 

At any given time on weekdays, KLOA found an average of 18 public parking spaces and 127 private ones available. On weekends, there were four open public spaces and 135 spots available in lots, on average. 

In commissioning the study, the village board was seeking to evaluate the amount of parking available in the downtown area and plan for coming changes. The parking lot at village hall was sold to a townhomes developer in December 2018. 

Currently, the village lot’s 119 spaces are used by village vehicles, village hall guests and Metra commuters who rent their spots from the village. When the village lot turns over to its new owners, all those cars will need to park elsewhere.

In the KLOA plan, Russell said the village will need to set aside 40 spaces for public safety vehicles, village staff, senior and handicapped parking. Another 30 spaces would be needed to accommodate additional village staff, and up to 268 are necessary for events at the H-F Park District Auditorium. 

To alleviate some overflow, Homewood reached an agreement earlier this year with the Archdiocese of Chicago to allow public parking at St. Joseph church between noon and midnight Mondays through Fridays, 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to midnight on Sundays. 

Russell suggested the village ask the church to modify the agreement to allow for an earlier start to public parking on Saturdays, easing event parking even more.

KLOA also made several suggestions for changes to the structure of downtown streets and parking spaces to help alleviate parking issues. The ideas included restriping the west side of Harwood Avenue for additional parking for village staff, a plan that would add 19 spots.

Other options included converting Elm Road, Harwood Avenue and Chestnut Road into one-way streets, making for a clockwise or counterclockwise traffic ring around village hall. 

That plan would include restriping Elm and Chestnut roads to include up to 19 new parking spaces. The spots on Elm would be parallel parking spots while Chestnut’s current parallel parking spots would be converted to angled ones, increasing capacity.

“All combined, there’s more than enough to accommodate the capacity of the auditorium (on event Saturdays),” Russell said. 

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