SEMO ready to move on parking garages

Monday, April 15, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University is moving ahead with plans to build two parking garages after clearing up concerns about deed restrictions on one of the sites.

But during construction, campus parking will be even worse than it is now, students say.

School officials say the inconvenience will be worth it.

The Board of Regents is expected to approve the sale of $6.5 million in bonds Thursday to fund construction of a 364-space parking garage on Henderson Avenue north of Broadway and a 340-space parking garage near the Towers residence halls.

Parking fees will nearly double starting this fall, with the money going to pay off the bonds.

Both two-story garages will be built on existing parking lots and double the number of parking spaces at those sites, school officials said.

Dr. Pauline Fox, vice president of administration and enrollment management, said construction on the Henderson site is scheduled to begin in December after the close of the fall semester.

Construction on the Towers garage should get under way in March, around the middle of the spring semester. As part of the project, Fox said the current entrance into the Towers parking lot may be widened and turned into an entrance and exit, and the current exit lane at the top of the hill on the south side of the lot may be changed to an entrance-only lane for better traffic flow.

The Henderson garage should be completed by the start of fall 2003 classes, Fox said. The Towers garage could be completed by then too, or early in the fall semester at the latest, she said.

The Henderson garage will have some parking for visitors, probably metered spots, she said. It hasn't been determined how much parking will be available for visitors. The current Henderson parking lot often is used by visitors who attend lectures, workshops and other events at the nearby University Center.

Finding temporary parking

To make room for construction, the university will have to find temporary parking in the 2003 spring semester for hundreds of students and staff who currently park on the lots.

School officials aren't sure yet where they will park all those cars. Fox said some of the Show Me Center's parking lot probably would be used as temporary parking for Towers students.

Along Henderson, there will be some parking available on a lot near Houck Field House which currently is taken up with construction equipment in conjunction with the building of the new residence hall, Fox said.

Still, parking could be a serious problem on Henderson where a nearly 300-bed residence hall for students will open this fall across from the planned parking garage.

"With that new residence hall, it is going to be a nightmare over there, that's for sure," said Ross McFerron, Student Government president-elect.

Dixie Wilson, a 20-year-old junior from Hornersville, Mo., lives in Myers Hall, a short walk from where the Henderson Avenue garage will be built.

Wilson said there's little parking near Myers Hall right now. Even metered spaces near her dorm are always full. With the new residence hall opening this fall, she said, the parking problem there will only get worse.

Wilson plans to move into an off-campus apartment for her senior year and walk to class, She's already found an apartment about a block from campus.

Wilson said she won't get a campus parking permit. She's unhappy about the hike in parking permits.

"I don't think that is right," she said.

Preferred parking permits, which is the parking closest to campus buildings, will cost $135 in the 2002-2003 school year, up from $80 this year. Preferred parking permits also will be required for students to park in the new garages when they open.

Perimeter parking permits have been increased from $45 to $85 a school year, and evening-class permits from $25 to $45.

The fee hikes will generate more than $400,000 a year to retire construction bonds.

Wilson predicted many students will park their cars along city streets rather than buy parking permits next school year.

"I think a lot of students will just walk to class," she said.

But students like McFerron say they will pay to park close to their dorms. "It is such a convenience," he said.

Front not restricted

Faced with the added parking problem posed by a new dorm, school officials had been pushing to get the Henderson Avenue garage built this year.

University officials initially hoped to have the garage in place when the new residence hall opens in August. But problems with deed restrictions delayed the project.

School officials said in January that deed restrictions dating back to the late 1800s or early 1900s would prohibit building any structure closer than about 25 feet from the back or western edge of the parking lot.

But Fox said it turned out that the deed restrictions applied to the front of the parking lot along Henderson Avenue and won't hinder the project.

Fox said university officials didn't hurry to resolve the legal questions once it was clear the Henderson garage couldn't be built in time for the start of the fall semester.

Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., opened a $5.4 million, 613-space parking garage in February. So far, the garage is handling only 20 to 30 vehicles a day.

Fox said that won't happen here. "We are building them right next to residence halls," she said. "We will have people standing in line."

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