By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — City officials have promised to temporarily delay the issuance of parking permits for spaces along Johnson St.
After multiple business owners spoke out against the county-owned River Block parking lot for potentially taking away spaces from customers, more spoke out when news broke of the city’s intention to issue permit parking along Johnson St., outside of the Square Bar. Such a problem garnered an impromptu meeting on Tuesday at the Square Bar between business owners and some elected officials, including Mayor Zach Vruwink.
According to Square Bar spokesperson Robert Jinsky, taking away potential parking spaces from long-time patrons will not just be detrimental to the bar, but other nearby businesses, such as Bauer’s Floor Mart, located at 146 Second Ave. South. It also creates potential concerns in the winter time where patrons may have a problem with the idea of walking too far to get to some businesses during cold weather.
“We as local business owners concerned about west side downtown parking met to discuss the problem with city officials,” said Jinksy. “The revitalization of the west side of Wisconsin Rapids depends on shoppers and customers to be able to easily access businesses.”
Lots W-2, also known as the ‘Dixon’ parking lot located at W. Grand Ave. and Fourth Ave. N., W-4, located at First Ave. South between W. Grand Ave. and Johnson St., as well as additional spots between First Ave. South and Third Ave. South on Johnson St. were scheduled to be available to rent for permit parking. These spaces take up a total of 53 parking spots in the area.
However, city officials decided to put a temporary stop to this until there is a hopeful resolution for all sides; city, county and local business owners. Business owners discussed potential suggestions for county and city employee parking, including behind JC Penney, part of city hall, and even part of the parking lot used for U.S. Bank on W. Grand Ave.
While the city has no say in what the county does, according to Mayor Vruwink, they will keep the best interests of local business owners in mind.
“We understand that there has been parking concerns and in short, the city wants to ensure that the parking restrictions that are in existence promote business-friendliness; but we understand that there is a push and pull between business owners and as well as those who work downtown,” said Vruwink. “Ultimately, we want a downtown that’s just as strong and more vibrant than we’ve had it before, so parking is just a component of it.”
A Public Works meeting has been scheduled for Aug. 1 to further address parking concerns in the area.