Urbana council's plan for Broadway Food Hall's parking lot has co-owner upset

Urbana council's plan for Broadway Food Hall's parking lot has co-owner upset

Hear from mayor Diane Marlin Tuesday at 4:20 on WDWS.

URBANA — After a contentious meeting between Urbana City Council members and a Broadway Food Hall co-owner over the illegally striped parking lot at the restaurant, city officials voted on a plan that would reconfigure the lot.

The parking lot, right now, does not conform to the city's design standards, staff argued Monday, and frequently results in illegal parking that makes accessibility difficult and pedestrian activity in the area potentially dangerous.

The city plans to narrow one of the lot's two wide driveways, remove three parking stalls and install wheel-stops in all parking spaces that abut the public sidewalk.

But throughout the meeting, food hall co-owner Matt Cho shook his head. He was staunchly opposed to extending the curb, as well as going into a cost-sharing agreement with the city to pay for it and reconfiguring the lot, with a price tag estimated around $20,000.

Even if it were less, Cho said he and his co-owners simply don't have the money to invest in a curb.

"This was not a compromise but a firm demand from the city," Cho said. "We have the equipment, building improvements and things to do to run our business. It is a cost I nor the business can afford. And for you to require this of a business that's been open less than a year is almost impossible."

Urbana Administrator Carol Mitten said the city thinks it can do the work for less than the $20,000 figure, but said her staff "never had a full dialogue" with Cho to reach a compromise and was still willing to discuss one Monday.

Cho snapped back: "The answer to that is simply, 'No, we can't afford it,'" he said, adding that all he needed to hear from the council was a request to remove all the parking, and he'd do it.

"If it's a detrimental health-and-safety hazard, then I'll remove the spaces," Cho said. "But as I said, we'll add more gas to a problem that was worse before."

Mayor Diane Marlin said the parking configuration Cho chose to begin with "was a concern from the get-go," and said the problem lies in that the lot was not striped and was then striped improperly.

Cho said the striping may have been improper, but "it created order." Alderman Jared Miller described the parking situation before Cho striped it as "the Wild West," and a "free for all."

But Marlin maintained the lot was dangerous, then gave time for Alderman Bill Brown to weigh in, something she wouldn't normally do.

"You have to have predictability and cues in a parking lot," Marlin said. "The way you have this thing set up right now is that people can pull up to the restaurant if they go over the sidewalk. People are subject to having vehicles coming at them from all directions. This situation is just not safe."

Cho, still shaking his head, maintained he would not go into a payment plan or cost-sharing scheme with the city. Alderman Dennis Roberts said Cho has "to be responsible for the activities of your customers," and urged him to compromise with the city.

Alderman Eric Jakobsson said the city ought to do the work of reconfiguring the lot and work out with Cho and his co-owners putting in "whatever they can contribute to it," because the council "agrees in principle" that the city would bear most of the cost.

"Which is already unprecedented," Mitten interrupted. "And we're also providing the bricks, which add to the cost."

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