Parking in Frankfort’s downtown, whether real or imagined, has always been a topic of concern.
The St. Clair garage, built by the city, now owned by Mike Templeman, was downtown’s salvation in the 1970s. However, due to its only ingress on Catfish Alley, it remains almost impossible to find by those outside Frankfort who search for parking filled by downtown workers, customers of the County Clerk's Office, and those lucky enough to find spaces. Two-way traffic on Main Street, if implemented, will make parking much worse.
There was a time 10 years ago when the garage was to be demolished due to structural issues. I supported demolition with a rebuild under a city design using the existing foundation with St. Clair access and two open decks initially accommodating 120 cars and capability to add additional levels.
This was opposed as costly and also leaving a hole in Frankfort’s downtown. The city then surprisingly determined the garage was structurally sound and advertised it for sale, with Mike Templeman the high bidder. Mike invested in its rehabilitation, now rents monthly spaces, but is unhappy due to security concerns (we all know about the recent tragic event), low occupancy and has considered closure. City Manager Keith Parker is looking at the city renting the garage. All this is progress. However, it is not enough!
I have talked to Mike about and make the following proposal:
• The city rents the garage. The city/community converts the garage with a St. Clair entrance under a partnership agreement with Mike.
• Downtown Frankfort Inc./downtown merchants agree to rent spaces for daytime use — either free or by an entrance arm on St. Clair with exit still on Catfish Alley.
• The city police provide security in the garage from street population — I don’t know how, but surely they do.
• The garage façade is converted into a “Green Wall” of living plants above the first-floor areas. My wife, Marie, and I saw the “wall” in the photo on the front of a building façade in Madrid, Spain. Hopefully, the garden clubs, garden centers and landscape contractors and the community would rally on behalf what would be a wonderful attraction on St. Clair.
Mike Templeman is open to this plan as long as his building’s structural integrity is protected. The brick façade is porous and would have to be protected or be removed/replaced.
• I attach a rendering showing the St. Clair street entrance and green plant façade prepared by local artist Jen Williamson (ours on the Firehouse).
There are numerous issues, but none should be insurmountable with the great benefits this project would provide. This is not “low-hanging fruit” but real progress in attracting visitors to downtown.
Bill Cull, of Frankfort, is president of the Grand Theatre. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.