Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Hartley Increases Parking Revenue, Sets Site on Garage for Melilli
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."