No parking HERE?

No parking HERE?

CHAMPAIGN — Imagine being able to pull your car into a loading dock, grab your groceries and backpack and go on your way, while a robot moves your ride up to its spot in your high-rise building.

There's no hassle of finding a parking space. No backing up and driving down a ramp. When you want to go somewhere, the robotic valet will retrieve your car and bring it to the first floor.

Sound too good to be true? Well, for some University of Illinois students, it turns out it was.

HERE Champaign, the luxury high-rise student apartment building at 308 E. Green St., was supposed to have 270 off-street parking spaces. Instead, it has zero.

Boomerang Systems, the company contracted to provide the robotic parking, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the day before HERE Champaign was scheduled to open and the system not working, despite being "99 percent" finished.

CA Ventures is out the almost $3.5 million investment it had put into the system, and on Wednesday, the company's major variance amendment request to not have any parking was approved by the Plan Commission. It will be considered by the city council on Jan. 19.

CA Ventures applied for the amendment because the building cannot be granted a permanent certificate of occupancy until the parking system is complete. When the plan commission approved the building in May 2013, it approved the plans with 254 parking spots.

For the past few months, the building has had a temporary certificate, but the financing can't go through until the certificate is permanent.

Since HERE was built, apartment buildings on campus are no longer required to have parking spaces, a change approved by the city council in September.

But the building was granted waivers because of the parking system. The waivers allowed it to be bigger than would otherwise be allowed. "Because the project is already existing, we can't go back and remove a floor of the building," said Champaign associate planner Eric Van Buskirk.

If the building had regular ramp parking, it would have been taller and had fewer units, said Van Buskirk.

Dan Rankowsky, a vice president of CA Ventures, said the company rented out 80 spots in a city lot for its residents and provided parking at West Quad, another luxury apartment building owned by the company.

Because the parking area is too small for ramp parking, the building can't be retrofitted for it, Rankowsky said.

He said the company is actively working to provide parking in the building, even if it's just by a lift for a couple of floors. He said the other floor of what would've been parking will likely become extra amenities.

"Time is of the essence for us," Rankowsky said. He said if a company could make the robotic parking system work, CA Ventures would be happy with that. But because the system is so rare, he said it's unlikely. The Plan Commission unanimously approved the variance.

"It does us, as a city, no good at all to have a building of that size and at that location in any way unused," said attorney Paul Cole, a commission member.

Don Elmore, the chairman of the commission, agreed, saying the city should give the company flexibility to fix the problem.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
wayward wrote on January 07, 2016 at 10:01 am

The idea of an elaborate robotic parking system for a campus apartment building seemed risky from the get-go.  Even if they'd initially gotten it built and running, what would have happened if something broke?  The vendors are out in California, and the building residents wouldn't have been happy about losing access to their cars for any length of time.

rsp wrote on January 07, 2016 at 10:01 am

If anyone has already signed a lease they should offer to let them off the hook or reduce the rent. They signed under false amenities.