Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Council Hears Plan For Parking Garage

Parking Director Tom Hartley presented his plan to use the Melilli Parking Plaza as the site for a new, multi-story parking garage to a receptive Common Council last night. The occasion was a Council workshop to learn more about why Hartley wanted to scrap the 2008 plan to put a parking garage at the site of the current parking arcade between the courthouse and Riverview Plaza.

Hartley repeated much of the presentation he gave to the Economic Development Committee in August. This time his presentation included a 13 slide Power Point presentation with data comparing the requirement for parking at Mellili Plaza and the requirement for parking at the arcade near Riverview. Hartley claimed that since there is less retail space near Riverview than near Melilli, "The arcade has less of a need generator than the Melilli lot." Moreover, he said that far fewer spaces would be lost, and for a shorter time, during the construction of a parking garage at Melilli than there would be during the construction of a similar structure at the arcade site.

Hartley estimated that repair and maintenance of the Riverview arcade during the next five years would require payment of about $100,000 per year. He said this could be funded by the revenue from parking at the arcade.

Rate Changes
The rates charged for parking in Middletown have remained unchanged since 1984, and have some features which the Council members found surprising. For example, the most desirable parking, on Main Street, is cheaper than the more distant, off-street parking in Melilli Plaza. Hartley proposed to redress this imbalance, by reducing the cost of parking off-street from $1.00 per hour to $0.75 per hour, and by increasing the cost of parking on Main Street from $0.50 per hour to $1.00 per hour.

Public Comments
A dozen members of the public spoke during a special public comment section of the workshop. Most were owners of businesses near Melilli Plaza or further north, they all supported the proposal to put the parking garage in the Melilli Plaza.

Others expressed reservations. Michael Arafeh said that construction of the parking garage would likely impact his business, The Coffeehouse Recording Studio, and Melissa Schilke expressed concern over the height of any parking garage in the Melilli Plaza. David Sauer questioned the assumptions and the numbers underlying Hartley's presentation, and expressed his frustration that the city had not moved forward with the original plan, and was instead now considering moving the proposed garage to Melilli.

Catherine Johnson, architect and town planner, spoke at length to the Council, reiterating what she wrote in a commentary in The Eye.

Johnson said she has been very actively following the parking situation in Middletown for quite some time, "Quite honestly, I may be the only person who understands the complete ramifications of parking." She expressed her support for moving the parking garage to Mellili Plaza, but voiced concerns over where the parking garage would be put within the Plaza.

Johnson said that it would be wrong to place a parking garage on the Washington Street edge of Melilli Plaza, "Washington Street is one of the most important streets in the city ... You do not front your most important street with a [car] storage space."

Hartley was hesitant to endorse any design or even location for the garage. He said that the design should be done in close consultation with many different people, "In no way should your Parking Director design the garage by himself."

Council to Vote on Monday
The Council will vote at their next meeting on a resolution authorizing the expenditure of $120,000 for the preliminary design of a Parking Garage at Melilli Plaza.


Anonymous said...

Are the plans viewable at city hall?

fishmuscle (Stephen H. Devoto) said...

There are no plans. If the council approves the resolution on Monday, they will be approving money to create plans for the first time. When made, those plans will be available to the public at City Hall.

Anonymous said...

Does downtown need 500 more spaces...please present supply and demand data

John Hall said...

Another issue to considered in siting a parking garage in Melilli Plaza is whether the garage will further block views and access to the river and waterfront. The tunnel under Rte 9 should not be blocked or hidden by a garage, and the sight lines to the river should not be further damaged. The only way to avoid this, that I can see, is putting the garage along Washington St. and Catherine Johnson has already stated that that is not desirable. So, if a garage goes up in Melilli Plaza, it will either be along Washington St. or it will further cut off downtown from the river. And what about a walkway over Rte. 9? That was supposed to be included, at least as a future possibility, as part of the plan for the garage at the Arcade site. I am concerned that our planning is so often automobile-centered. I feel we need to envision downtown Middletown's future in a more comprehensive way, including patterns for foot traffic, river access, boat docking, softness and shade, and overall aesthetic appeal.

Anonymous said...

All of this back and forth about the design at Mellilli is exactly why the garage should be tucked into existing arcade location and no more than 3 stories.

You can not make a garage look good unless you spend a fortune, it belongs behind the police station with an office building facing the river..

Anonymous said...

Middletown is not Disney World.

Brian said...

Yes, boat docking. Isn't Middletown in its 25th year of its 10 year harbor improvement plan?

Anonymous said...

exactly, not disney, no demand for a 5 story, 500 space garage

Paul said...

A tall, ugly parking garage is NOT what we need to invite people into our city. When the trees were removed for the reconstruction of the Melilli lot, you can see the businesses on the river side of the clocktower shops.

To me, this is inviting passerbys on rt 9 into our city- not looking at the backside of an ugly parking structure. Middletown has plenty to offer people- let's let them know we are here!