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Merchant suggests paving downtown park for parking

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The village created this “pocket park” on Main Street after the former Waterman building burned down in the 1980s.

ALBION – A downtown business owner has suggested the Village Board pave over a small park in the downtown and turn the space into parking.

David Snell owns Peter Snell Realtors, two buildings south of Waterman Park. He said 6 to 8 spots could be created from the park. Those spaces would be a big lift to merchants nearby, who only have a few close spots on their side of the street for customers, Snell told the Village Board on Wednesday.

“We have a desperate need for it,” he said about the parking.

Snell said there are only three spots on the east side of Main Street, between the park and Bank Street to be shared by four businesses. Many potential customers, especially for a drive-up business like Fischer’s Newsstand, keep driving if there isn’t easy parking available, Snell said.

Snell also suggested the village push the state to allow angled parking on Main Street to create more spaces. Village officials doubted that would happen because the state doesn’t want vehicles backing into a state road.

“We need to get creative because the state is killing us and other small villages,” Snell said. “We can’t accept ‘No.’ The state says you can’t do it but that will kill us.”

This postcard from the 1970s shows how the Waterman building looked. It’s left of the Briggs Building, the tallest one on the block.

Snell thinks paving the park might be the best answer. Or the village should consider selling that land to a developer with the stipulation a new building be constructed that would match the historic flavor of the downtown.

He also urged the village to consider incentives for building owners that invest in apartments in the upper floors. The village shouldn’t just raise the assessments for those projects, forcing the building owners to pay more in taxes, Snell said.

He praised the village for marking parking spaces in a back lot between East Bank Street and the canal. Additional spots in that lot could be made available behind a building owned by Bill Wittman. Village officials said they would pursue an easement from Wittman, and would mark the spots with paint.

Village trustees said they wanted to talk with Snell more about his other ideas. Dale Brooks, the DPW superintendent, said he would reach out to the state Department of Transportation to see if angled parking could be an option.