Monday, January 25, 2010

Pay for Parking in Downtown Bristol?

I'm sure you're all on pins and needles about that parking study, so without further delay, here's what I wrote for Tuesday's Press about it --

BRISTOL -- When the city’s new downtown takes shape, it should include a fee for parking, consultants told the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.

If a parking garage is part of the downtown project, it’s going to have to bring in revenue to support it, said Chris Granatini of Tighe & Bond, a firm that the BDDC hired to do a parking study of downtown.

Granatini said the last thing the city wants is to have people driving up and down the street looking for a free parking space. The time to institute a fee for parking is when the new downtown is built, he said.

John Lodovico, who serves on the BDDC board, said he didn’t disagree about the necessity of charging for parking but warned that people wouldn’t like it.

“It’s going to be quite a culture shock,” said Lodovico.

Granatini and a colleague, Joe Balskus, gave a presentation to the BDDC Monday about the downtown parking situation.

Citing downtown Middletown as a model, they suggested creating a parking authority -- an entity Bristol already has -- to oversee, manage and operate the parking.

Downtown Bristol has more than enough parking spaces for now and for the planned development, the consultants said.

Granatini said 1,900 parking spaces are regularly used out of a total of 4,700 spaces downtown, when all public and private lots are considered.

The former mall site, which is expected to be developed by Renaissance Downtowns, is tentatively slated to have 750 residential units, a 100-room hotel, commercial space and 1,550 parking spaces.

“The existing supply can accommodate what’s proposed in the future,” said Granatini.

Frank Johnson, chairman of the BDDC, said it’s important to remember that what Renaissance has now is a “concept plan” that may well change.

The firm identified several places they referred to as “hotspots” where parking is in high demand.

The hotspots on the street were along North Main Street in front of City Hall, the post office and fire station; on West Street between Laurel Street and School Street; on High Street in front of the library and along Main Street between the library and Riverside Avenue.

Off the street, the hotspots included the municipal parking near the post office where Foley Street meets Meadow Street, and across from City Hall on the former mall site, which they identified as “municipal area overflow parking” and on the old mall site on Main Street, identified as overflow parking for Main Street businesses.

The parking analysis suggests several potential spots for new parking lots, including the Bristol Boys and Girls Club site on Laurel Street, the former site of the Mamatseos building on North Street and North Main, the former Bristol Press building on Main Street and the former Mills box factory site on Church Street, among others.

The study also advises “road diets,” or a narrowing of some multi-lane streets like Riverside Avenue to make room for on-street parking. The consultants suggested some could be added on North Main Street near the junction with Riverside Avenue and along Riverside between Main and North Main streets.

Johnson said an alternate idea might be to accomplish the same thing by expanding the former mall site out to include those lanes and have additional parking on the property. Johnson said it is also possible that a parking facility could be a public-private venture.

Granatini said the city could gain some parking spaces in the municipal garage between City Hall and the police station, which he said is not used to capacity. He suggested that perhaps the city could assign some of the spaces to municipal employees to encourage its use.



  1. Concerned in BristolJanuary 26, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Already starting, I knew that Reniassance would find away to have the public help pay for this project. While it may not have Reniassance's name on it ibet this study group was maybe recommended by Renianssance or maybe has some kind of tie to it. I say it now if we are not careful we will pay for this. I mean accordin to the press only 1500-1700 out of 4700 parking spaces that are available in Bristol are used. If people have to pay to come downtown how will they spend money if the are feeding a meter or paying an hourly fee. Wake up before it is to late.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Just to clarify, the BDDC started in on this parking study before they picked Renaissance, so you can't really blame Renaissance for this.
    And while I think the downtown includes entirely too much paved ground and not enough green, many of those spaces they counted were on private lots and may or may not be available to regular folks.
    I understand the reluctance to pay for parking -- I certainly don't want to have to fork over anything to park downtown -- but it is a fact of life in most places and let's all hope that when this project is finished, it'll be worth it to pay a little to park downtown.