The Friendship Center in Downtown Winona needs more parking as it is the number one complaint from members.
The issue comes mostly because the Friendship Center serves the senior citizens of the area, many of whom have a harder time walking long distances or making it across the street in the time allowed.
Roxy Kohner has been a member of the center for almost 11 years. She said sometimes she will come to the center an hour before an event to wait out a close enough parking spot.
“I have driven by and without a place to park I had to turn around and go back because there wasn’t anything within the walking distance that I can do,” Kohner said. “I have also staked out parking. So I have come an hour ahead of time and I will park and do something in my car till I can watch and see someone pull out.”
Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center, said this is the most frequent complaint the center gets.
A report from 2018 state there is adequate parking for the City of Winona.
The report titled “Parking Study: Downtown Winona” was created by Walker Consultants. They studied an area of 42 blocks between the Mississippi River, Winona Street, Broadway Street and Kanas Street.
Walker Consultants found that in the study area there were about 4,030 spaces available of which about 3,205 spaces were for public use.
Parking continues to be a problem for the Friendship Center despite the findings in the Walker report.
Winona Major, Mark Peterson, said parking has been an issue for the center since it started 40 years ago.
“The complaints are very real which is why the city has been looking at a solution to solving the problem,” Peterson said. “The past couple of years the city has seriously been considering moving the center.”
There will be a meeting on Nov. 13 to discuss parking further.
There was talk from the city about knocking down the old middle school auditorium and creating a parking lot there.
According to Kohner, that would not fix the problem.
“That is a band-aid because many of us have limited mobility. So even if we do have parking you’re talking two blocks away,” Kohner said. “I won’t be able to go two blocks either. I can go a block if a stretch it, half a block is perfect.”
One quasi-solution the center had was making a deal with Wesely United Methodist Church which is next door to them. The Friendship Center can use the church’s parking area as long as the church does not have an event going on.
The parking the church said the center can use is not reserved for the Friendship Center. It is public parking.
The center has a membership of 1,000 people with an average daily attendance of 125. They also have staff coming in and out of the building every day.
According to Fox, the Main Street Square Development across the street has hindered their membership.
“In the last 6-8 months that this development has been occurring, we are watching our numbers drop for the first time in 25 years,” Fox said.