The Willy Street Co-op plans to install a driveway behind the store and onto Jenifer Street by this fall, but neighbors are concerned about what that will mean for the residential street.
Anya Firszt, the co-op grocery store's general manager, declined to say if the driveway would be permanent. She said forthcoming Williamson Street reconstruction and current parking lot congestion have raised concerns about traffic.
"We're doing this for reasons of safety and access to the store and storm water management," Firszt said.
Last week, the co-op sent 260 letters to neighbors informing them of the project and about a meeting Monday to discuss it.
Scott Thornton is president of Marquette Neighborhood Association and lives a block away from the store. The letter was the first he had heard of the driveway construction.
He said the prospect of a Jenifer Street egress was discussed by the neighborhood association and co-op staff. He said the neighborhood association opposed a permanent driveway but would likely support a temporary one. There is currently a path from the Jenifer Street side to the parking area on the west side of the store.
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"Cars coming out into the street all day long would really change the nature of the street," Thornton said. "That entrance to the co-op parking lot is heavily used by bikes and pedestrians."
Parking lot congestion has been a much-debated topic in the co-op's member newspaper, the Willy St. Co-op Reader, and the co-op contracted for a traffic study in 2009.
The current entrance/exit is just west of the intersection of Williamson and Baldwin streets, which has a traffic signal. At busy times, Williamson Street backups make it difficult for vehicles to exit the store's lot.
Signs are posted to prohibit left turns during morning and afternoon rush hours.
A traffic study done in 2009 said the current volume of traffic between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Jenifer Street is 166 vehicles and that an exit would add an estimated 45 vehicles in that hour. However, the study also said many of the vehicles likely to use the Jenifer Street exit are currently turning right and using other streets, including Baldwin and Jenifer, to head west because they cannot take a left turn.
Firszt said the store has city approval to install a curb cut for the egress, and that there had been two driveways on the former Eagles Club property when the co-op purchased it in 1998.