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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Farewell, Free Parking: Meters Coming To Montrose Harbor, Angering Lakefront Park Advocates

City crews were out Wednesday prepping for the installation of the meters, upsetting park advocates.

The city will install paid parking meters along streets in Montrose Harbor.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — The city is quietly installing parking meters at Montrose Harbor, ending free parking at one of the city’s most popular lakefront attractions.

City crews were out Wednesday prepping for the installation of the parking meters, said Stacey Greene, owner of the Park Bait Shop at Montrose Harbor.

It’s part of a wider push to install meters in formerly free spots around the city to fill the city’s budget gap. The new meters will be owned by the city and won’t be part of the much-criticized, 75-year privatization deal from 2008 that blew up in Chicago’s face.

Meters are coming to the portion of Montrose Avenue that extends into the lakefront park. They will also be installed on Montrose Harbor Drive, the road that leads back to the bird sancuary and wraps around the boat harbor. Meters will also be installed on the parts of Wilson Avenue, Lawrence Avenue and Simonds Drive that extend into the park.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
The city will install paid parking meters along streets in Montrose Harbor.

The City Council in November approved a measure bringing metered parking to Montrose Harbor as part of a larger ordinance expanding pay-to-park meters across the city. The vote on the item was split, with 30 aldermen in support versus 20 against. Ald. James Cappleman (46th) supported it.

Other targeted spots include on Halsted Street near the Steppenwolf Theater; on Southport Avenue near Diversey Avenue; on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park; on Elston Avenue near the impending Lincoln Yards megadevelopment; and along Clybourn Avenue, according to the ordinance.

Tressa Feher, Cappleman’s chief of staff, said the ward office was approached by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office about adding paid parking meters to portions of the city that don’t already have pay-to-park under the city’s controversial contract with parking firm LAZ.

The meters at Montrose and elsewhere in the city will collect revenue that will stay with the city, and not go to the parking contractor, Feher said.

Cappleman decided to support the effort, saying it may free up parking at Montrose during summer days when parking at the park is at a premium.

“In the summer, if you want to drive there, you have to get there really early,” Feher said. “The hope is there will be more turnover” with the meters.

The Montrose meters will require payment 6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, according to the ordinance.

The city’s budget office said the goal is to install the Montrose meters this summer, “however the City is currently surveying the impacted area to determine exactly where they will be installed.”

Montrose Beach is a popular summer attraction in part because of its parking availability and accessibility. It’s enjoyed by people from all over the city and used for soccer tournaments and running events.

Parking meters will greatly reduce the accessibility of Montrose Harbor, said advocates for the park.

“The lakefront should stay clear and free,” said Leslie Borns, an advocate for Montrose Harbor. “There should be access to everyone, and this is going to restrict access. People need these open spaces now more than ever.”

The Park Bait Shop sits at the corner of Montrose Avenue and Harbor Drive, right at the center of where the parking meters are coming. Greene said the decision will have an impact on her customers, many of whom are low-income and even come to the lakefront to fish for their dinner.

“I think it would be very detrimental to me,” she said. “It’s hard enough to access on a summer days.”

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