Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hartley Increases Parking Revenue, Sets Site on Garage for Melilli

I suspected Parking Director Tom Hartley was a good hire when on an early morning walk (somewhere around 6 a.m.) in the late Spring, I saw him driving a beat-up city van accompanying a Parking Department employee as they collected coins from meters on Main Street.  Obviously, Hartley wanted to get a street's-eye view of revenue from the meters.

A few months later I was standing at an event in front of Amato's with the mayor and deputy mayor and looked across the street as Hartley went meter to meter checking the new automated, card-accepting meters on Main Street.

Then, recently, I heard that against odds, Hartley was advocating for building a parking garage not on the site of the current arcade, behind the Police Station, but on a portion of Melilli Plaza behind Main Street's main commercial strip.

"The numbers hold the answer," Hartley said to me when I visited him in the new, tiny Parking Department office in the basement of City Hall.  "Some years back the city did a parking study, and if you look at what's said, it seems obvious where we need to put the parking."

In raw numbers, currently the Melilli lot (even after its current makeover) provides 1.63 spaces for every 1000 sq. ft. of commercial space it services in the blocks around the lot.  The arcade currently offers 12.99 spaces for the same 1000 sq. ft. of commercial space.

The discrepancy is obvious, and Hartley says it makes space to build more parking where it's needed, and that's the site of the current Melilli Plaza lot.

Hartley says a five story parking garage in part of the lot closest to Washington Street, with modest retail space at street level, will give the city 550 spaces where it needs them most.

"My goal as Parking Director," Hartley said.  "Is to drive economic growth by providing appropriate parking where it's needed, because you want parking to support the growth."

Hartley has to convince city leaders that abandoning the building of a garage on the arcade site, and putting it on a lot that is currently being improved to the tune of $1 million, is a good idea.

"We will lose very little of the proposed improvements," Hartley said.

In his view, lighting, cameras, safety features and parking controls could all be used in the new garage, and in the remaining lot space on Melilli plaza.  What would be lost is the new blacktop covering the 113 spaces, in the Northernmost portion of the lot, where the garage would be built.

"In addition, we would retain the revenue from the arcade," Hartley said, indicating that in the demolition and construction of a lot on the arcade site, the revenue from its 366 spaces would be lost.  Hartley admits that needed repairs would have to be made to the current arcade.

"And we need that revenue," Hartley said.  "That revenue, and the revenue from the new garage will help to pay for the 20% match the city needs to acquire federal funding for garage construction."

Armed with statistics and parking revenue projections, Hartley hopes to convince the Economic Development Committee and eventually the Common Council to pursue a switch in construction sites.

Since Hartley started there has been a significant increase in parking revenues to the city.

The Parking Department exceeded expectations and delivered $660,000 in revenue ($450,000 net) to the General Fund.  He projects $815,000 in revenue for the current fiscal year.

"I expect parking to generate the funds to help us improve parking in the city - resurfacing, lighting, emergency call boxes.  Parking is the first impression made on visitors to the city, and I want it to be a good one," Hartley said.

One improvement many merchants and parkers have lauded are some test meters on Main Street which accept credit and debit cards, along with change.  These meters, installed free-of-charge, with no obligation by the IPS Group, on a trial basis,  also allow the Parking Deparment to get instantaneous reports because the meters report results via SIM card to a centralized data base.

"When I came to the city for my job interview it was pouring rain," Hartley recalls.  "I remember seeing an elderly couple standing in the rain fishing in their pockets for change, and then having to run into a restaurant to get some to feed the meter.  That wasn't a good thing, and I hope we can change it."


Janice said...

I am very concerned that the increased monthly and hourly parking rates will hurt minimum wage workers in the downtown retail and restaurants. It's not clear whether there will still be 2 hour free parking, which encourages shoppers. What is all the hulabaloo about revenues? Do you want a vibrant downtown or not? People will not come downtown if they have to pay big bucks for parking. They have other choices for shopping that have free parking.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Middletown picked a winner.

Anonymous said...

why are we not proposing some more simple starting ideas like signage directing cars towards the existing parking that we already have such as metered spots along Broad street between Washington and William which rarely have anyone ever parked in them.

Ridge Road Resident said...

"Parking is the first impression made on visitors to the city, and I want it to be a good one," Hartley said.
What about the garbage business owners leave out on Main Street. That leaves a great impression! Isn't there something that can be done about this?

Anonymous said...

So were spending $1 million building a lot and 2 years later were going to dig it up to build a garage.

With the footings and earthquake design for a 5 story garage that entire lot will be dug up, once again..what a waste.

Anonymous said...

If my memory serves me, the Melilli parking project was approved earlier this year at about the same time that we were hiring Mr. Hartley. Why did the reconstruction of the Melilli lot get approved before a Director of Parking was hired and consulted?

It seems Mr Hartley has a well grounded plan for parking in our city. I hope the Common Counsel and our Mayor give his professional opinions some weight. However, that may mean they need to admit they may have jumped the gun on the Melilli decision. At least town hall will have bike racks.

Anonymous said...

What an eyesore that would be to our town.. traveling down RT 9 already is not all that pleasing to the eye. Lets just clog it up with more buildings.. More retail space??? there is tons of retail space being wasted on main street as warehouses and empty spaces...... how about sticking with the original plan and adding onto riverview center garage as opposed to clogging up the rt 66 corridor with 500+ more cars trying to get onto rt 9...

Jane said...

There was bond money that had to be spent, come hell or high water (or a new parking director.) A five story parking garage will dwarf the buildings on Main Street, not to mention City Hall and deKoven House. See downtown New Britain for an egregious example. Also see some excellent coverage in the Courant's "Place" section on how more parking did not create a more booming retail environment for Hartford. Maybe downtown needs more bike space and more handicapped-accessible parking, but I know that, in 36 years of living here, I have NEVER gone shopping elsewhere for lack of a parking space. I only shop elsewhere when I can't get what I need downtown.

Anonymous said...

It has been some on the city council dream to build a monument to themselves, sounds like this is it. We have Middlesex Mut. parking garage the court house mess that no one parks in since they get mugged 200 feet away from the police station. We want to open up the city to the river and at the sametime build a huge structure to block the river view, sounds like Middletown,I liked the stupid electric tolley car to no-where much better

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:34 and Jane, I agree with you both wholeheartedly. One of the reasons I left New Britain was their utter lack of seeing the obvious. I hope Middletown isn't headed in that direction.

Disgusted Citizen said...

Parking is needed downtown if Middletown wants to flourish and draw more retail.
Doing nothing is what places like Meriden did. Look at their downtown now. Nothing like what Middletown has and yet some here want Middletown to limit growth.
Typical for those why think status quote is good enough.

Anonymous said...

There's over-aggressive and predatory ticketing happening on Main Street since the new parking czar. People will remember how unreasonable it felt to get a parking ticket in less than 3-minutes and they will just avoid downtown next time. A short term "significant increase in revenue" at what longer term cost to the city's image? Janice is right on....

martel said...

Anon 2:45, what do you consider to be "over-aggressive and predatory ticketing?" Clearly, 3 minutes after the meter expires is too quick for you, but what kind of grace period would be OK for you? 15 minutes? An hour? Whenever-you-get-back-to-your-car?

And please enlighten me: when the parking enforcement officer gets to your car and sees that you have overstayed your welcome, how exactly is he/she supposed to know how long ago that meter expired?

Anonymous said...

--The parking garage will only be a good idea if it is free parking, or the 2 hour free parking, as someone said. People can park in shopping centers for free. On the other hand, anuual maintenance will be a tax burden. We better fix up the store fronts, and the streetscape, so that there is a huge increase in visitors, or else it will be a poor return on the investment. Now the added traffic will create another issue. Very difficult situation, requiring study, but lets get to it.

Jane said...

I haven't parked in West Hartford center since they left me an $18.00 ticket for overstaying my welcome at a metered spot. I had spent about $100 on a restaurant meal and some shopping -- the $18 seemed like an unfair tax. These reactions may be visceral, not logical, but that's mostly how we make decisions.

Anonymous said...

Jane a meter for short term parking, frequent turn over. Middletown meter are the same way.