City looks to address lack of parking

With the impending demolition of the New Haven Coliseum, parking could soon become tighter downtown.

The city’s plan to eliminate the Coliseum will wipe out the 2,300 parking spaces in the garage that towers above the arena. But parkers could find relief in the renovated Temple Street Garage that opens Sept. 10 and other garages still in the works. City officials hope other parking facilities will be near completion by the time the Coliseum’s garage closes in January.



Temple Street Garage

The Temple Street Garage first opened in 1962 as part of the Chapel Square Mall complex. But decay over the next few decades forced the city to invest $12 million over the past two years to revitalize the site.

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland plans to attend the official grand opening ceremony. A $9 million state grant paid for the majority of the project.

The overhaul included work to the concrete infrastructure and improved lighting. The garage’s security system was upgraded, and new elevators are now in place.

“We almost gutted it to a certain extent,” said William Kilpatrick, the director of the New Haven Parking Authority, which manages the facility. “This is the first time we’ve done work of this magnitude at this facility.”

The Temple Street Garage has 1,200 parking spaces. Only 500 are currently used daily, offering an alternative to parkers once the Coliseum’s garage closes in January.

“We have the capacity at Temple Street to handle the overflow from the Coliseum,” Kilpatrick said.

The Parking Authority also hopes to lease retail space in the old Macy’s building that abuts the Temple Street Garage, according to the city’s business development office.



Union Station

Union Station’s parking garage has just 850 spots and frequently fills to capacity. Since 2000, buses have transported parkers between the Coliseum’s garage and the train station to offer travelers additional parking.

Because the Coliseum’s demolition will eliminate thousands of parking spaces, the city has hastened the development of a second garage at the train station, adjacent to the current garage. The site currently is used only for surface parking.

“We have the ability to construct and finance a second garage,” Kilpatrick said.

The city’s plan calls for a second Union Station garage with 900 spaces.

The state currently owns the station’s garage, but the city Parking Authority operates the facility. The city recently approached the state about building a second garage and has not received a response yet, Kilpatrick said.

“I’m hoping we hear soon,” Kilpatrick said.

The state is also considering its own plan for a second train station garage. But in return for the second facility, the state wants control of the current garage, which generates $400,000 for the city Parking Authority annually.



Mid-Block

The state also recently allocated $4 million to the city for the construction of the Mid-Block Garage. The proposed five-story, 800-space garage would lie in the interior of the block bound by Church, Orange, Elm and Wall streets. The entire project is estimated to cost $17 million.

But a private development group named Independence Realty New Haven, which owns the land, has hoped to finance a slightly smaller garage privately.

Under the city’s proposal, the Parking Authority would operate the facility. Parking would likely be cheaper under municipal direction, but the garage would generate no tax money. The private investors also would not require public funding for construction.

Representatives from Independence Realty New Haven did not respond to telephone messages last week.

The facility would serve the Quinnipiack Club, the First Union Bank building, and tenants in the former SNET headquarters that is being transformed into 145 luxury apartments.

Parking has proven critical for marketing other buildings downtown that were converted into housing units. The second phase of the Ninth Square redevelopment project includes the placement of 138 parking spaces in the lower level of the W.T. Grant Building, a former department store. That garage will be privately managed.

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