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University revises Palmer Street plans after residents express concerns

| Thursday, February 10, 2022

The University revised its plans to put an entry gate to proposed parking lots on Palmer Street after residents voiced concerns about increased traffic on the street, Notre Dame announced at a St. Joseph County Council meeting Tuesday.

In order to move traffic off Palmer — a narrow dead-end street on the east side of campus — the University decided to put access points to the two proposed lots off Leahy Drive and in the Bulla Lot that currently exists, associate vice president for public affairs Tim Sexton said.

Courtesy of Tim Sexton
The new plans will put access points to the two proposed parking lots on Leahy Drive and in Bulla Lot.

The University petitioned to rezone four parcels of land it owned around Palmer Street from residential use to University use in order to construct two parking lots on the south end of Palmer Street — one on the west side of the street and one on the east. The county council approved the rezoning Tuesday night.

The lots will compensate for lost parking expected in what is now the Library Lot as part of plans to build a multidisciplinary research building adjacent to McCourtney Hall. Initially, the University planned to put an access point off Palmer. Sexton said Leahy Drive contains a significant slope which posed a challenge to constructing an entryway.

The revised plans contain an entrance to the lot west of Palmer Street on the north end of Leahy Drive near Bulla Road, where the slope is not as steep. The east lot’s entrance will be connected to the Bulla Lot.

Robert Smith, who owns a property on Palmer Street, was concerned the small street was not going to be able to safely manage the increase in traffic that would have come with the original plans. Smith said he had prepared speeches for the county council to make one last push against the University’s plans, but once the Notre Dame representative announced they had revised their plans to avoid increasing traffic on Palmer Street he was stunned.

Instead of giving the speech he finished at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, Smith simply thanked the University for reconsidering its plans. Smith and his wife and her aunt, who also lives on Palmer Street, were shocked at the change in plans.

“When they pulled that change — and they didn’t tell us ahead of the meeting — they were sitting there with this information, just kind of mischievous, knowing that we would be stunned,” Smith said

Ever since Smith aired his grievances with University plans to put an access point to new parking lots on Palmer Street, he said he has been met with support. Smith said a former wiffleball league formed by students who used to live on Palmer Street, called “Palmer Street Wiffleball League,” emailed the county council in unsolicited support of Smith.

“I am thankful to the folks in the Notre Dame community who expressed support for us and thankful to the administration that they decided that they could change what their plans were,” Smith said. “That expression of support from young alums is so, so very touching to us. They signed off on their emails, ‘Palmer Street forever.’”

Sexton said construction for the new lots is expected to begin later this spring once the weather clears up. Sexton said the University had been looking for ways to move the potential traffic off Palmer after contentious public meetings. The revised plans accomplished that goal and left both parties content, he added.

“We were able to find a solution that was conveyed [Tuesday] night at the county council meeting and that was received extremely well from the residents of Palmer Street,” Sexton said. “And in fact, we came up with a win-win, and we’re thrilled for that.”

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About Ryan Peters

Ryan is a sophomore in Knott Hall from Lake Forest, Illinois. He is majoring in business analytics and minoring in constitutional studies. He currently serves as Notre Dame News Editor for The Observer. Follow him on Twitter @peterrsryan.

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