By Celine Klosterman
DAVENPORT – Davenport’s Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved St. Ambrose University’s request to build three parking lots on university property just west of campus. But at the same June 1 meeting, the board tabled decisions on both a new dorm and on a proposed parking lot a half-mile north of campus.
St. Ambrose wants to add three parking lots with a total of 138 spaces west of campus and create a 108-space parking lot north of campus on Central Park Avenue, largely because of the proposed residence hall. The 204-bed dorm would eliminate 73 parking spaces and increase overall demand for resident-student parking. Now, the university has a little more than half as many resident-student parking spots as resident students, according to information it shared with the city.
Neighbors didn’t object to the cluster of three parking lots at last week’s meeting, but raised concerns about water runoff and the possibility of increased traffic from the proposed lot just south of St. Vincent Center.
Jacklynn Draper showed board members photos illustrating existing runoff problems near her Gaines Street home north of the proposed lot, and referred to her neighborhood’s “river drive.”
Sister Margaret Bennett, CHM, who lives several blocks southwest of the contested lot, told The Catholic Messenger she feared the construction would cause stormwater to drain in her direction.
Residents’ concerns prompted board member Cathy Hart to move to table the issue of the Central Park Avenue parking lot, citing a need for more examination and discussion. The motion passed 3-2, with one of the dissenting voters, Bruce Bleke, citing lack of a timetable to make a decision. Members delayed deciding on the dorm as well, pending their decision on the parking lot.
Mike Poster, St. Ambrose’s vice president of finance, told the Messenger the university believes it can ease concerns of board members and neighbors. The university is awaiting completion of an engineering study that includes a water management plan for the Central Park Avenue lot. “Our plans are to ensure there is no stormwater runoff. Our goal is to have no negative impact, but to improve the conditions,” he said.
St. Ambrose envisions the proposed lot as a parking place for students who don’t use their cars daily. “Students have told us a storage lot is something they’d be interested in,” Poster said. Permits for it would cost the least of all university parking permits, and St. Ambrose would provide free transportation to and from campus, according to plans shared with the city.
Sr. Bennett is among neighbors concerned about how a new parking lot would impact area traffic. “Are you going to expect college kids to only use their cars three times a week?” she asked.
In remarks included in a city staff report, traffic engineer Gary Statz wrote that because it would be inconvenient for students who drive daily to park in the lot, he expects little extra traffic on Central Park Avenue.
If the board approves the parking lot and the dorm, St. Ambrose hopes to begin construction on them this summer, Poster said. The three lots west of campus will be added in summer 2012, in time for the hoped-for opening of the dorm near Harrison and Lombard streets in fall 2012.
The dorm would offer a home for students the university doesn’t now have room to house. For each of the past three years, about 170 students who wanted to live on campus couldn’t, according to St. Ambrose. The university has said housing them in a residence hall would also reduce the number of students living in rental properties, whose neighbors have complained about partying and other student behavior.