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Volunteer parishioner John Burnes walks into Saint Monica's Pastoral Center on Tuesday afternoon. Officials with the church are looking to demolish the center and create a Community Center with underground parking that could relieve congestion in the area, much to the delight of residents. (photo by Brandon Wise)

WILMONT — Residents who have long complained about the dearth of parking in their neighborhood could soon see a solution to their problems.

As St. Monica Catholic Church moves forward with its campus enhancement project, which includes the construction of a new Community Center and two levels of underground parking, residents in the Wilshire-Montana neighborhood are hopeful that the structure will be open for their vehicles during off hours.

After reviewing the proposed plans, the City Council on Tuesday directed its staff to pursue the development agreement negotiation process, asking that it incorporate public benefits that include shared parking, traffic management, publicly-accessible facilities and outreach to the homeless in nearby Reed Park.

Church officials last month met with the neighborhood in which they unveiled the project, expressing a willingness to consider a shared parking arrangement for the neighborhood, said Jeanne Dodson, the chair of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition.

“We have a lot of eyewitnesses saying they would be willing to do this,” she joked.

Parking has long remained the top concern amongst residents in one of the most densely packed neighborhoods in the city, many speaking of stories of how they endlessly circle blocks looking for a space.

“I’m happy they’re working with us to try and find some solutions together for the neighborhood,” Dodson said.

The estimated $27 million project includes the demolition of the 13,065 square foot Pastoral Center on the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and California and replacing it with a larger 30,438 square foot Community Center. A subterranean parking structure with 270 spaces is slated to be constructed underneath the Community Center.

The project also includes a 7,200 square foot classroom addition to the rear of the St. Monica Catholic High School’s east building and renovating the auditorium and other facilities.

Construction is estimated to begin in June of next year and will be completed about 18-24 months later.

The church has so far raised approximately $13.1 million in its capital campaign for the enhancement project.

Jason Farmer, spokesman for St. Monica Catholic Church, said that church officials are open to ideas that will be brought forth during development agreement discussions with City Hall, which could include a parking arrangement for residents.

Residents who spoke at the meeting were favorable of the project.

“The church has a long, well documented history of providing benefits to the community and the neighborhood,” Suzanne Verge, a resident of Euclid Street, said. “The biggest problem we face is the street parking and I really believe the proposed underground parking will help alleviate this problem immensely.”

Tom Zanic, the project lead for the church, said that the proposal offers several public benefits, including reducing on-street parking demand, opportunities for Reed Park staff to leave their cars in the new structure, and a community-accessible bookstore that will have a coffee bar.

“The philosophy of our project is we are enjoying the fruits of those who have come before us, their planning and their buildings,” Zanic said at the meeting. “We recognize at this time it is our responsibility to improve on what they provided for us.

“We enjoy the shade of the trees planted of those who have gone before us and now we must contribute.”

melodyh@smdp.com