A very unhappy public sat through yet another convoluted rationalization to build a third parking garage at taxpayer expense.
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Perhaps the most disconcerting comment of the evening was delivered by Mayor Dickson who said we need to build a garage to attract ratables. Build it and they will come? This coming from the same person who pushed for converting our free parking to pay lots. This plan has failed in many regards. It did not generate the anticipated revenues, exceeded operating costs and drove users out of town to free parking in New Providence, Chatham and Madison. The project cost about $1.5 million including the “Deforest beautification” and you want us to spend millions and millions more?
A garage on the Post Office Lot will be another dismal failure. It is too remote, and too many people simply do not like to use garages. I believe a multi-pronged approach would serve our city far better. Several years ago, I proposed putting a grade level deck over the depressed existing lot next to the train station owned by DOT. It would put the user parking where it is needed the most, and could greatly improve the aesthetics of this area. DOT could be promised more commuter parking, something they greatly want in return. This could be accomplished by adding another level to the existing tiered garage and committing some number of spaces for commuter parking. Out of town parking generates significantly higher revenues than any other parking.
Bringing in more ratables can be accomplished without taxpayer subsidies. We have two such opportunities. Five year ago, Summit adopted new zoning ordinances for the Broad Street and Morris Ave/River Road corridors. The development community universally criticized these ordinances. Since nothing has happened in either location, it demonstrates that the ordinances have failed. It is time to amend these ordinances to attract new ratables. The future of the Merck Campus is still somewhat unclear and should be a major consideration in any Morris Avenue redevelopment.
Building a massive, industrial looking parking garage on the Post Office lot is not an answer to either of the problems discussed above, and building one at Deforest/Woodland is absolutely unthinkable.