Economic Development Committee Approves Parking Plan
WRITTEN BY: Bill Flood
At it's regular monthly meeting, The Economic Development Committee approved a plan to generate new parking spaces in the city’s North End, amid enthusiastic support from some local businesses.
The plan was presented Monday by Director of Planning, Conservation & Development William Warner. It would connect a parking lot on Grand Street, behind the Community Health Center now under construction, to a proposed new lot behind and next to the outdoor patio of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room.
The city would acquire three properties, one of which contains a 2 family house which would be demolished. The old Midstate Auto building would also be demolished, and the city would apply for a federal EPA grant to clean-up the ‘brownfield’ left behind. The final piece is an unused portion of a back lot on Clinton Avenue. Much of the property in question has been virtually unused since the 1930’s, according to Warner, who researched old aerial photos and land records.
In a response to member Dan Drew’s question about what type of contaminants might be found in the brown field, Warner said “We’re not overly concerned” based on a records search.
Some costs of obtaining and demolishing the properties would be offset by the Community Health Center, but the city would still need to approve a $440,000 bond. The cost of actually constructing the lot after the property is obtained would be about 100 to 150-thousand dollars. Committee member David Bauer noted the plan lacked an overall fiscal projection. “Give me a price tag”, he said. Warner said he could provide a spread sheet.
During the public portion of the meeting, Eli Cannon‘s owner Phil Ouellette said that not only for Eli’s, but for any new business in the North End, “clearly parking is the issue”, and heartily endorsed the plan. He was joined in his support by Harold Murphy, representing the building across Main Street that until recently housed the “Little Tibet” store, and by Jeff Pugliese representing the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.
The committee voted to approve the plan, 3-1. Bauer was the only ‘nay’ vote.
The committee also got updates on a now-vacant property at 20 Portland Street. The committee is seeking proposals for the small lot from neighboring property owners and other interested parties. The deadline was extended for proposal because of concerns that not all of the neighbors had received the information from the city about the request for ideas. The North End Action Team is working on disseminating the information to all residents.
Warner also appraised the committee of the status of the proposed new city parking garage. The city is still w
aiting for DOT to approved the fee negotiated with design firm URS and the city for the design contract. He expected that approval within the coming weeks.
Warner said that the actual design of the garage “will be a completely public process.”