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South Loop Residents Score Free Parking

Parking in downtown Chicago is like a fine gem: pricey and hard to find.

While finding the perfect place for your vehicle in the general downtown area may be a challenge, for some commuters, finding parking in the South Loop community is even more of a hunt. With significantly fewer garages and prices in the double digits, drivers in the area are constantly on the prowl for cheap (sometimes free) options.

One free option lately has been the Icon Theatre, located at 150 W. Roosevelt St. The theatre, part of a larger shopping complex currently under construction, has a large parking garage available for parking free of charge.

Elmwood Park resident Kristen Corna, who commutes to the South Loop for school, said she heard about the lot from friends and has parked there a few times.

“Parking down here is so expensive, so if I’m low on money I’ll try to use the free lot,” she said. “I’m always waiting for the day I drive up there and they ask for money. It makes me nervous I’ll get towed or something.”

General Manager Gene Hobbs said she’s aware that the lot is currently being used by non-patrons in the area, and that there haven’t been any problems so far. However, the free parking won’t last for long.

“In the future, the surrounding buildings will be purchased,” she said. “Once the buildings are purchased and opened,  we’ll start charging.”

Hobbs said she wasn’t sure what the timeline was for further complex development.

Although those who commute to the South Loop say that finding parking can be a challenge, Pasquale Neri from 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti’s office says that parking really isn’t an issue.

Neri acknowledged that there are no large parking garages in the South Loop, but said the area makes up for it with street parking.

“The general downtown area is a business district, with people coming in from the suburbs to work,” Neri said. “The South Loop is a lot more residential. It’s a neighborhood. I think if you talked to the residents down here, they’d tell you they don’t want big parking garages.”

Neri went on to say that the larger apartment complexes in the area have their own parking garages within them, which makes parking even less of an issue.

Local student Blaine Coyle, who commutes to the area twice a week, said he still finds parking to be difficult, though not impossible.

“It seems that since [the city] privatized the parking meter system, the company that runs it has increased the price,” Coyle said. “At the same time, they’re increasing the quantity of parking options by putting new meters on almost all possible areas where cars will fit.”

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