Friday, October 16, 2009

A parking lot - or homes for the neighborhood?

A parking lot or homes in the neighborhood?

This is one of those arguments where both sides have some valid points. A popular restaurant and bar in a Milwaukee, WI suburb needs more room for its patrons to park. Area homeowners wants their streets and parking spaces back and don’t care about the restaurant. Local media coverage includes showing which City Council members voted which way by giving names.

While I can see both sides of the story, I find that from both a personal and professional standpoint I have the same opinion on this one.

I agree that this restaurant should be able to provide the additional parking and facilities to accommodate all of the customers it possibly can. If potential customers have the “but it’s hard to find parking” thought in the back of their mind, that restaurant is going to lose out on revenue. It would be one thing for someone to have to park ½ block or more away in warm weather, but Milwaukee is a cold weather city. People won’t go where they have to park further away. The area is not exactly a public transportation mecca.

The restaurant is correct in not wanting to have people who have had a few drinks walking down a neighborhood street, especially late at night. I would bet that some homeowners have been awakened by “conversation” in the night from people walking to their cars. Worse yet, I’m sure some have started a morning by noticing a section of lawn that has acted as a bathroom.

Yet, these same homeowners benefit by having the successful restaurant and bar right there in the community. It benefits the local economy and draws attention from people who might not otherwise come and spend in the area.

This vote is about razing 2 houses adjacent to the restaurant. My opinion is that given the choices a potential home buyer has in this market, living right next to a crowded restaurant and bar is not at the top of the list of preferences. Yet, living “down the block” from a thriving business but having peace and quiet and plenty of guest parking on the street would seem more appealing to a potential local buyer than the current situation.

If the real estate market were such that homes were in such demand, I might think differently on this.

One other personal comment. I’ll admit I would like to see this establishment succeed because it is willing to take on the responsibility of providing free parking and services for a large customer base. I take issue with having to pay to park to do business. I shouldn’t have to pay to be “outside” while I pay to do business inside an establishment. People are way too tolerant of paying to park, especially at downtown prices in most cities.

So, yes, knock down the 2 houses, give the restaurant the space it needs to do it right. Give the neighborhood some quiet, and let the economy flourish.

Would you do the same?

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