Quincy officials remain concerned about parking in Quincy Center as the downtown redevelopment begins the first stage of construction early next year.
For a year, plans have called for construction to begin in the area of “Merchant’s Row,” a block of buildings encompassed by Hancock Street, Cottage Avenue, and Chestnut Street.
The development will build 300 residential units in two main buildings, and open five to 10 retail tenants on the first floor of the block. The Granite Trust building will be gutted, and though the Alba building will remain intact, all sidewalks surrounding the block will be redone with a new streetscape.
While the construction will all be contained within that one block for this first part of the Quincy Center revitalization, the development will take over more than 70 parking spaces currently in the lot behind Hancock Street.
Although the development is building a two-floor underground parking garage, those spaces won’t be open to the public until October 2014.
According to Richard Heapes, co-founder and partner for Street-Works, the city’s developer, construction crews working on the scene and eventual tenants will have 38 parking spaces available at the Hancock Municipal Lot and also 38 in the Quincy Mutual parking lot while construction is ongoing.
That will further limit parking options for the public, which currently has access to those 76 spots.
Eventually, 186 parking spaces will be open to the public in the parking lot contained within Merchant’s Row.
Once open, tenants for the new buildings will be able to park within that lot, or can find parking elsewhere in the downtown, Heapes said.
Yet the lack of public spaces during construction seemed problematic to city officials, especially as the current lot provides vital spaces for an active downtown.
“This is one of the issues I was concerned about -- the sequencing and adequate spaces for the residents and also the public,” said Councilor Doug Gutro.
The concern was also for businesses in the area, whose customers will need parking despite the ongoing construction.
“While [businesses in the area] may reap the benefits subsequent to construction, they want to make sure they won’t have to close up their doors during the construction piece,” Gutro said.
According to Stephen Chrusciel, construction manager for Street-Works, Beal/Street-Works has submitted preliminary construction management documents to the city’s Planning Board, which will outline additional steps to alleviate parking concerns.
“We expect to present a strategic plan for how [construction issues] are addressed but be held accountable,” Crucial said.
Additionally, councilors were concerned about parking around City Hall, especially as the Adams Green will remove traffic, and subsequently street parking, on Hancock Street to reroute cars in favor of green space.
Councilors cautioned city officials to keep in mind easy access to City Hall within the park design and during construction.
“It’s a constant theme you’re hearing about. Its about parking, parking, and more parking,” Council President Michael McFarland said.
According to city officials working on that aspect of the redevelopment, it will be considered.
“We’re working with the mayor’s office and all other dept to how to accommodate safe access into City Hall for those elderly and disabled, and also post construction as well,” said Kristina Johnson, director of transportation for the city.
As for Street-Works parking dilemmas with Merchant’s Row, Gutro suggested the developer host a pre-construction meeting so neighbors could ask questions about what the development will mean for them.
Councilor Brian Palmucci also cautioned Street-Works executives to communicate more with neighbors about the development.
“I’m in the downtown and folks have a lot of questions. I don’t have answers with particular buildings with particular time frames,” Palmucci said. “Folks are unsure whether to make capital expenditures in their own business, unsure to do another round of marketing campaign…while you may not have answers for folks, the anxiety some business folks have could be remedied by at least letting them know you’re there and making an effort to get them information.”
Street-Works executives promised to try harder, and said there was still time to have discussions and make changes about the development in the downtown.