UPTOWN — People parking near two of Montrose Harbor’s most popular destinations will have to pay for their spot starting this week.
Crews on Monday began installing parking meter boxes and pay-to-park signs on streets in Montrose Harbor, and the meters will go live Thursday, officials said.
The 18 meters are being installed on Montrose Harbor Drive, near the Montrose Bird Sanctuary and the section of Lawrence Avenue that runs past the Montrose Dog Beach, said Ald. James Cappleman (46th).
The parking meters will be in effect 6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, according to the city ordinance that paved the way for the meters. They will be turned on 8 a.m. Thursday, a sign on the meters reads.
The parking meters are part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2021 budget plan, which was approved last year. But news of the meters at Montrose Harbor wasn’t widely known until March, when vendors at the lakefront park noticed crews prepping for the pay boxes.
The addition of paid parking at Montrose Harbor has annoyed some residents and visitors, but officials say they will help the city profit from its controversial parking meter deal for the first time in its 13-year history.
The city sold the 75-year rights to its paid parking program to investors for $1.15 billion in 2008. The deal has been an albatross for the city, with the investment group that operates the parking meters recouping its entire investment by 2019, with more than 60 years to go on the deal, according to the Sun-Times.
On top of not collecting revenue from the majority of paid parking spots on public streets — as the city faces massive budget shortfalls — the city must also make “reconciliation payments” to the investment group for meters that are placed out of service by construction and special events.
Those payments are funded through newly added parking meters and other fees associated with public parking.
The City Council in November approved a measure bringing metered parking to Montrose Harbor and throughout the city, with 92 new meters covering 750 parking spaces in the city, media reports said.
With the new meters, parking revenues are expected to be $10.5 million in 2021, surpassing anticipated reconciliation payments for the first time and enabling the city to finally keep some of the revenue, according to estimates. The new meters could allow $10 million to be contributed to the city’s corporate fund, according to city budget documents.
Ticket revenue from paid-parking infringements also stays with the city.
The meters don’t sit well with some Montrose Harbor fans.
That includes Stacey Greene, owner of the Park Bait Shop at Montrose Harbor, who told Block Club the meters will hurt her low-income customers, who fish for their dinner along the lakefront.
The Chicago Area Runners Association also protested the move, saying the meters punish people who don’t live by Montrose and don’t have great public transportation options for getting there. The group’s petition to remove the meters has garnered 12,000 signatures.
Despite the meter installations, most of the streets in Montrose Harbor will remain free to park. The city ordinance approving the meters allowed for their installation at most points in the park, but city officials in March said they were still finalizing where they would be placed.
Cappleman, who supported the measure to add new meters throughout the city, said they will shore up city finances and contribute to parking space turnover at the popular lakefront attraction. Other lakefront destinations, including the Museum Campus and 31st Street Beach, already have paid parking meters.
“The goal is to reduce congestion and create enough turnover so access to the beach doesn’t get shut down by police due to overcrowding, allowing for more people to enjoy the lakefront,” Cappleman said in an email to constituents.
Other areas slated to get parking meters include Halsted Street near the Steppenwolf Theater, Southport Avenue near Diversey Avenue, Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park, Elston Avenue near the impending Lincoln Yards megadevelopment and along Clybourn Avenue, according to the ordinance.
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