By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — After multiple business owners showed up to voice their opposition of the city’s latest proposal for the redevelopment of Second Street into a pedestrian friendly corridor, the Board of Public Works recommended the city bring back aspects of past proposals for the project. At Monday’s public works meeting a plan that would have reduced parking spaces in a two-block stretch along Second Street from Maple Avenue to Chestnut Avenue was scrapped, and two elements of previous plans were recommended for that stretch of road: angled parking and one-way streets.
The city has worked on several proposals for the corridor and asked for public feedback on the plans and also spoke with business owners about the corridor concept, which aims to make Second Street more appealing to pedestrians. The plan presented — and ultimately rejected — on Monday night would have added bicycle parking; more opportunities for outdoor seating, dining, and public art displays; and green space to the corridor. However, the plan also would have reduced the amount of parking in that two-block stretch from 35 spaces to 20, and business owners strongly opposed that aspect of the plan.
John Sikora, a part owner of Mitten’s Home Appliance, said that no reduction in parking was acceptable to downtown business owners.
“I just think even one parking spot lost is too many. Especially our business, 80 percent of our parking comes through that Second Street entrance. Losing any parking for us would be an absolute business killer,” Sikora said. “The green space, it looks nice on paper, but I just, I don’t believe that we’re a Wisconsin Dells or a Minocqua or a tourist destination.”
Angie Eloranta, the executive director of Main Street Marshfield, also voiced her support for the business owners’ perspective and said that she would like to see more plans developed that would not eliminate parking.
Jeff Kleiman, a co-owner of Thimbleberry Books, expressed concerns about any reduction in parking stemming from his experience as a long-time business owner in Marshfield. Kleiman said that Thimbleberry Books lost two parking spaces at its prior location at 132 S. Central Ave. due to remodeling of Central Avenue.
“We noticed a decline, a regular decline in foot traffic,” Kleiman said. He added that in their new location at 166 S. Central Ave., “Whenever there has been interruption in those parking spaces, we see foot traffic suffer.”
John Miner, owner of Victory Apparel, which also lies directly in the proposed Second Street corridor, echoed the parking concerns.
“I think the loss of parking spaces, especially on my side of Second Street there, it loses every single spot, every single one. … If we lose every single spot on that side, I think that would be detrimental.” Miner added that he appreciated the forward thinking concept of the pedestrian corridor but that parking needed to be maintained in any plan.
Pat Baer, the owner of the Charles Apartments, who in the proposal would lose all of the parking directly in front of his building, was also strong in his opposition to proposed reduction in parking.
“Losing the entire parking of my whole building is just, it’s devastating,” Baer said. “I’m flabbergasted that something like that would even be considered.”
Mayor Chris Meyer voiced his opposition of the plan on different grounds than the parking issue, saying that the plan did not go far enough to truly achieve the goal of a pedestrian friendly corridor.
“This isn’t anything different. This is two lanes of traffic, parking on both sides, with a few trees intermixed. This is not accomplishing what it is we talked about accomplishing,” Meyer said. He later added, “This is an opportunity for the Board of Public Works to do something different. We’re not creating (or) looking for a problem to solve. We’re looking to the future and what it is we want to make the downtown.”
Meyer then brought up a previous plan that would have had one-way streets heading east from Central to Maple Avenue and west from Central to Chestnut Avenue with angled parking on those blocks, which would likely increase parking spaces. Due to space limitations, Meyer added that if the city was going to make a substantial change to Second Street, one-way streets could be the solution.
“A single lane, not two-way traffic, that’s how you make space, and that’s the big issue here. We have no space,” Meyer said. “We can’t fit two lanes of traffic, two rows of parking, a bike lane, and pedestrian friendliness all in 60 feet, so something needs to give.”
After hearing the shift in proposals to include one-way streets, angled parking, and increased parking spaces, Baer said that he could live with that proposal. Sikora expressed concerns that angled parking could be a safety issue and hurt traffic flow.