The yellow slips for residents to speak quickly piled up prior to Thursday night’s Kirkwood City Council meeting. Residents packed the council chamber as they sought to comment on two of the most contentious items in the agenda: the purchase of two downtown buildings for parking and .
Downtown buildings purchase
Before the council was a second and final vote on the $1.25 million purchase of two businesses located downtown at 107 and 133 West Jefferson Ave. The city council plans to demolish the two buildings and expand an existing parking lot there. The existing lot currently offers 44 small parking spaces. The expansion of the lot would increase that to 90 standard‐sized parking spaces.
Residents speaking before the council on Thursday night were divided on the issue.
“I would encourage the council to think of something that’s not destructive, something creative,” said John Chappell, Kirkwood resident. “I see this as just an excessive amount of money for a purpose that will not benefit Kirkwood as a whole.”
Gina March, vice president of marketing at the Kirkwood-Des Peres Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the purchase. She said Kirkwood is in much need of more downtown parking space.
“The chamber, working on behalf of our members, is dedicated to a partnership with the city to maintain the vibrancy of the downtown area, yet there continues to be frustration by many businesses because of the problem with parking,” March said. “The prospect of purchasing land already adjacent to a prime parking area will offer the ability for enhancing sales tax revenues, revenues necessary to keep the city running... It takes courage to seize an opportunity amongst opposition.”
When it came time to vote on the issue, the council was also divided. Council members Gina Jaksetic and Gerry Biedenstein voted against it, while the rest of the council voted in favor.
“Pretty much from day one I have been opposed to this,” Jaksetic said. “...Probably the worst part about this to me is that we are doing this with taxpayers’ money.”
Mayor Art McDonnell said the city’s first step will be making the property into a parking lot, but said the council does not rule out that the property could be made into something else in the future.
“A lot has been said, and I certainly think this is a very strategic and rare opportunity for Kirkwood to be able to buy these two pieces of property,” McDonnell said.