Future developments of Champaign parking lots to be discussed at City Council meeting

A parking lot in Campustown could become available for future commercial and housing developments as will be discussed at Tuesday’s Champaign City Council meeting.

Parking Lot J, near the corner of Green and Sixth streets, is one of four properties the city hopes to issue a request for qualifications and proposals as part of an in-fill development plan that will be presented during the regular meeting’s study session on Tuesday.

By issuing requests for qualifications and proposals to these sites, potential developers can engage in a competitive bidding process on the property.

Parking Lot J has been requested by developers twice in the past, most recently about a half decade ago, said Champaign planning director Bruce Knight. However, proposed developers, who were considering ground floor commercial and above floor residential space, backed out of negotiations.

“It has been considered a few times before, but it hasn’t succeeded yet in finding a deal,” Knight said.

Of the four sites, Parking Lot J is the most likely to undergo development in the near future, said Will Kyles, District 1. The council will discuss these properties and address some of the council and their constituents’ concerns regarding the issue.

“We have plenty of parking lots,” Kyles said. “Instead of having some of these vacant parking lots, how about we use them for development?”

The In-fill Development Strategies Plan, to be presented Tuesday, would facilitate the process. The purpose of this plan is to take advantage of the city’s 2011 Comprehensive Plan, which includes the principle of promoting fiscally sustainable growth. Knight said the plan promotes more in-fill development; city growth is encouraged by taking advantage of existing properties and infrastructure.

Along with Parking Lot J, the three other properties include the Burnham, the Hill and Neil, and Main Street parking lots. Knight said the draft of the plan, a five month endeavor, makes the requests of these properties a top priority for whatever developers want to do with them, pending city approval.

“We’ll let the proposers decide what the best use of the property is,” Knight said.

A second report for Tuesday’s special study session regards towing fees. Under a new proposal to be presented to the council, Champaign would allow towing services to charge a show-up fee

to vehicle owners who show up before their vehicle is towed. The proposed ordinance would allow the fee to be charged to owners who arrive even before their vehicle is connected to the tow truck.

The report states that cities such as Urbana and Normal have mandated similar towing fees, and Champaign towing services would benefit from a show-up fee. Such a fee would help compensate towing service costs, reduce trespassing incidents and hold vehicle owners and operators more accountable for their actions.