By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The parking lot of Bryant Library, 22100 Michigan Ave., could have a new design, but not before residents give their feedback and ideas on possible improvements to changes.
During a Feb. 26 meeting at the library hosted by Downtown Dearborn, the new design concept planned for the parking lot was presented.
The planned design concept would remove the current parking lot but include handicap and short-term parking, pedestrian walkability improvements and public green space.
Also, the current plans are to maintain a similar garbage bin location; maintain two handicapped parking spaces close to their original location; provide safe pedestrian movement at each entry and book dropoff; provide a large open lawn for potential event space; provide four new vehicle parking spaces on the street; and provide street bike parking.
There is no timeline for the project to begin; feedback from the Feb. 26 meeting and comment cards will be taken into consideration before a second meeting is held. The final plan will have to be approved by the City Council before construction can begin.
Streetscape construction is being completed on Howard, Mason and Monroe streets north of Michigan Avenue which makes the library’s parking lot less accessible to visitors. Construction started in August and is projected to be completed by the fall.
According to the meeting event notice post on Facebook, reconstruction of the parking lot is anticipated to occur concurrently with the completion of the streetscape.
Downtown Dearborn Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius and Smith Group JJR landscape architect Kelly Burks explained the plans as residents provided feedback and asked questions during the meeting.
One of the biggest questions was related to the drop box and access to it because of its location, and the removal of parking spaces for a green space.
Burks said the drop box would stay in the same spot with sidewalk access to it, and Sheppard-Decius also said there has been consideration about potentially moving the dropbox if necessary through the library’s planning process.
Another attendee asked about the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce which is located on the lower level of the library building and if the new parking lot plan would be open and welcoming if visitors have to park 20 spots away.
Sheppard-Decius said DACC President Jackie Lovejoy, who also serves on the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors, supports the proposed plan.
“She is definitely in favor of this because she has seen, unfortunately, too many times that people have been almost hit, and she really feels that this would be an asset as well,” Sheppard-Decius said. “Where there is additional outdoor space in this area whether it’s for library patrons or functions the library might do or even the chamber might do outside as well.”
When asked how 15-minute parking that would serve the book drop off visitors can be monitored, Sheppard-Decius said adding special signage is a possibility. She also said the 15-minute parking possesses its only challenges including knowing whether a person parked in the designated library parking spot is library visitor or someone patronizing another business.
“There are challenges with that — with a public parking system these are the challenges that occur when you have a growing downtown,” Sheppard-Decius said. “I can’t say it’s unique in any downtown area, parking is always the No. 1 concern and we always have to take into consideration all of the considerations, not only parking but also the various pedestrian and traffic movements and needs for the district itself.”
Resident Khodr Farhat questioned how the parking lot design plan would benefit individuals with disabilities.
“Instead of having vehicles cross the pedestrian movement pass we’re providing sidewalk access directly to the doors from the parking spaces,” Burks said. “So, you’re not having to go across any vehicular movements whatsoever to get directly into the library doors.”
As a followup question Farhat asked how illegal parking in handicap spots would be tracked.
“A call to the police department that someone is parked there with no handicap pass would be one way to track handicap visitors,” Sheppard-Decius said. “I realize that might not be the solution but once they get one of those tickets they won’t want to do that again, they’re expensive.”
Councilwoman Leslie Herrick asked how far into the future did the plans look regarding traffic patterns in west Dearborn with increased business and potential increases in population.
She added her concerns about the traffic flow on southbound Mason because it is being made more pedestrian friendly and with the cutout on that street.
“It means that only one lane of traffic can go through there,” she said. “Are we looking to make it that you can’t turn left onto Michigan Avenue so the traffic has to go straight or right because there is no right-turn lane as you go south, and then of course the gas station is a whole other issue.”
Two audience members suggested changing Mason to a one way.
“There was an exhaustive traffic study that was done before any of the construction started on any of these streets,” Burks said. “We had police there, MDOT, traffic engineer that were looking at all of the routing — this was studied throughly and it did take into account future growth of the city. The assessment determined that a two-way was feasible.”
Dearborn resident Peggy Greuther started a petition on Change.org to the mayor’s office stating that the library’s parking lot has been made useless by the streetscape construction on Mason. Over the last month, the petition garnered 284 signatures of its 500-signature goal.
“The city does not plan to restore egress into this said parking lot,” she wrote. “This is a concern to the local citizens as people rely on parking close to this library for easy book return, and for easier library access by our city’s senior citizens, disabled and families with babies and young children in tow.”
Greuther spoke during the meeting and said, “When I heard that there would be designated spaces, I thought that might be OK, but hearing what the feedback is, that’s really kind of not OK. So, I sent a note to the mayor and I’ll have to send a followup.”
For upcoming library meeting information go to downtowndearborn.org or the Downtown Dearborn social media channels.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])