(David L. Ryan/Globe file photo)
For visitors who drive to the North End on a busy weekend night in search of parking, finding a space is about to get even more difficult.
LAZ Parking is seeking a zoning variance to renovate the existing lot on 588 Commercial St., which will temporarily remove a number of parking spaces during construction.
At a recent North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association zoning, licensing, and construction meeting, LAZ Parking area manager Todd Gilbert announced a list of “necessary renovations” to the 49-space lot, including the removal of an existing shed he called an “eyesore” and an attendant booth that will be replaced by automated gates and self-service ticket machines.
The renovations will make the lot “fully automated and more aesthetically pleasing,” Gilbert said.
Until a hearing in late January on a permit application LAZ officials said they could not predict the start date for construction. But there is no question that the demolition process will remove an unspecified number of parking spaces for safety reasons. Gilbert said he hopes this reduction in available parking spaces will be “minimal.”
But for North End motorists, the parking situation is already dire.
According to an informal poll conducted by NorthEndWaterfront.com, only 14 percent of North End residents own a parking spot, leaving more than 50 percent of the community battling for scarce curb-side parking or rentable spaces in garages or lots like LAZ. Eliminating the few parking spaces available to these residents and visitors alike, even temporarily, only adds to the headache of driving down narrow one-way streets packed bumper-to-bumper with parked cars in search of an empty space.
“It’s risky to give up parking spaces,” said Elena Acuna, 20, a resident of Back Bay who visits the North End mainly on weekends. “The situation’s gotten so bad I’ve taken to using the T instead.”
Other residents see the renovations as an improvement for the surrounding neighborhood.
Chad Wolfson, a resident of the North End for more than 12 years, says that the old, rusted chain-link fence around the parking lot is a safety concern for nearby residents. The fence protects against a ten-foot drop on the other side, but the bottom is pulled out, so that the pointed metal links protrude onto the sidewalk and cause a hazard to pedestrians.
“Our friend’s daughter got her pant leg caught and injured herself,” said Wolfson, 37. “My kid has gotten tangled up in it as well.”
Wolfson says he’d be happy to see the construction go through, as long as repairing the fence is added to the list of necessary renovations. Other residents shared Wolfson’s concern at a recent North End/Waterfront Resident’s Association meeting.
Gilbert said fixing the fence and other safety problems are a key goal of the project. “We are eager to get in there and start making the necessary improvements.”
For LAZ, sacrificing a couple of parking spaces to keep the neighborhood safe and improve the efficiency of the lot in the future is a no-brainer.
David Kubiak, co-chair of the ZLC committee says he’s optimistic that this temporary decommissioning of parking spaces won’t affect residents as much as visitors.
“On weekend nights there are hundreds of vehicles looking for parking,” Kubiak said. “Will this make it a little more difficult for people to find a spot? Yes, but I don’t think residents will see a difference.”
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.