The entire east bay of the Fourth Street parking garage is gone, and work on the west bay of the garage is almost complete.
The parking garage had structural issues and became unsafe for use, so the city decided to build a whole new parking garage in its place, said Adam Wason, Bloomington public works director. The demolition began about four weeks ago after the city council approved the rebuilding of the parking garage in April.
Wason said he hopes the new garage will be ready by the end of 2020. People will have the same options to buy parking permits for the new Fourth Street garage as they do for other garages in the city.
The new parking garage will have about 500 parking spaces, he said. Before the renovations, the garage could accommodate 335 vehicles. It will also have Parksmart certification, which aims to reduce environmental impact.
The new garage will have electric vehicle charging stations, bike parking and lockers and compact car parking. There will be solar panels on the garage roof.
“We’re looking at this as a project that’ll have long-term benefit to the community,” Wason said.
Na Li owns Best Taste, a Chinese restaurant on West Fourth Street. She said the parking garage being closed has negatively affected the number of customers the restaurant gets.
“The customer cannot find parking, so they won’t come for dine-in,” she said.
Li estimates the business has lost about $4,000 since the garage closed. Besides losing dine-in customers, various delivery companies take a percentage from the sale. She said pick-up orders have declined because people can’t find close enough parking to pop into the restaurant for even a few minutes.
She said she looks forward to the new garage opening.
Alison McGlothlin, owner of Elan Salon in the Fountain Square Mall on West Kirkwood Avenue, said she supports more parking downtown. She said clients have always been late from time to time, but since the garage has closed, every day someone calls saying they’ll be late to their appointment because they’re circling the block looking for parking.
“There definitely is this feel that downtown is a hassle to deal with right now because of parking,” McGlothlin said.
She said some of the salon’s older clients who only want appointments between 10 and 11 a.m. because they can find parking at that time. That way, they don’t have to walk much. Some clients don’t even want to come downtown on Saturdays. She said it wasn’t like this five years ago, and she thinks the Fourth Street garage plays a role.
“That was several hundred spots that now, those people are on the street,” she said. “Everyone’s parking further and further out.”
This also affects people who work downtown, McGlothlin said. She said workers parking on the street displaces people who want to visit the area.
McGlothlin said she would like to see bike parking in the garage. She also said businesses, housing and visitors will keep coming downtown, and they need to have parking options.
“I hope they’re building it for the future and that it will be big enough and have the amenities that people in 15 years want,” McGlothlin said.