Recent changes in parking lot availability have caused some complications between Marquette and the Gesu Parish.
The Gesu Parish and Marquette have been longtime partners due to their close proximity and overlap of community members, and both parties have taken part in shared services.
The primary Marquette parking lot used by Gesu parishioners is Lot F on 12th Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Wells Street. This site was recently approved as the future site of the new Athletic Performance Research Center. Because Lot F is scheduled to close Feb. 19, Marquette offered parking alternatives.
Some Gesu members worry that the alternatives are inadequate. Rev. Jim Flaherty issued a statement on the Gesu Parish website and made a statement at mass encouraging Gesu members to call University President Michael Lovell’s office to voice their concern over the closing of Lot F.
Flaherty said Marquette’s short-term options will pose an inconvenience for parishioners and visitors.
“The long-term parking options are ill-defined and uncertain at this time,” Flaherty said. “Thus, Gesu stands firmly opposed to this project in its current form, due to the harm it will cause the parish.”
University spokesperson Chris Stolarski said Marquette values its longtime relationship with Gesu Parish. Some of the university’s offered parking alternatives are nearer to the church than Lot F, he said.
Stolarski said Marquette has offered Gesu 31 parking spaces in Lot G on 12th Street, some parking spaces at Lot J off of 11th Street, 100 reserved spaces in the parking structure on Wells Street and 30 reserved spaces in the Eckstein Hall parking structure.
Those numbers total 161 spaces to replace the previous 127 spaces available to Gesu visitors, Stolarski said.
“It’s important to note that all of these options are well within the designated area as outlined by the university’s agreement with Gesu,” Stolarski said.
In Flaherty’s statement, he addressed the alternative parking by saying, “With the exception of 30, three-zero, spaces, every one of those will be more inconvenient (than Lot F).”
“One of my chief duties as pastor is to protect the life and mission of the parish. I believe this closure of Lot F is a threat to Gesu’s life and parish and mission … If you don’t have convenient parking, you will not have a parish,” Flaherty said.
Paul Trotter, a 1976 graduate of the College of Speech and current parishioner of Gesu, finds the miscommunication disappointing and worries that closing the lot “will certainly lose members.”
“Marquette has unilaterally decided to place the needs of a few elite athletes over the needs of Gesu parishioners,” Trotter said. “Dr. Lovell has refused to consider moving this project one-half block west. His actions will have a long-term negative impact on Gesu.”
Flaherty and Trotter both commented on Marquette’s lack of transparency in the decision to close Lot F.
“Gesu was brought into the planning process only after key decisions were in place and non-negotiable,” Flaherty said in his newsletter to the parishioners.
“It’s like we’re coming in on the back side of this,” Trotter said. “I don’t know if it’s a matter of ignorance or poor planning. I don’t know why we were alerted so late in this process. We’re really trying to play catch up here. It would have been nice if we were brought into this discussion a long time ago … I feel like we’re being railroaded, and there hasn’t been any discussion.”
As of now, Marquette still plans to close Lot F in the upcoming weeks to begin construction of the Athletic Performance Research Center.