Elm City pilots valet parking downtown

As the city continues to attract more visitors to its expanding array of restaurants, theaters and retail stores, parking in downtown New Haven may be getting easier — at least for those willing to pay for valet service.

On Sept. 5, the city launched its newest pilot valet program on Temple Street, in collaboration with Propark America, a Hartford-based parking management service company. Located near Criterion Cinemas, the new valet service offers the public the option of paying $5-$10 to have vehicles parked by professionals in a nearby surface garage.

Promising to offer “Your ‘keys’ to a successful time in New Haven,” the company was authorized to start its newest program in response to growing demand for parking spots in downtown New Haven, City Director of Traffic and Parking Paul Wessel said.

Wessel said he hopes the service will help clear cars from the road by placing them in off-street parking places, which are currently underutilized because they are not readily visible from the street.

“Valet parking makes sense when there is more demand for parking than the on-street spaces can provide,” Wessel said. “The valet service gives you convenience, but you pay an extra cost. The program is intended to identify whether town-goers will pay the cost of the convenience.”

The valet parking service is offered from 11 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. on weekends, in anticipation of late-night weekend rushes.

Wessel said Propark will run the pilot program for at least three months, and it will assess its success in December before making valet parking a permanent addition to the city. Propark Director of Administration and Marketing Dennis Safford said he is confident the program will be implemented in the long-term.

“The service has been operating for less than two weeks, but we have received positive feedback from patrons and local business owners during that short amount of time,” he said.

Anthony Lupinacci, a spokesman for the Shubert Theater, located on Temple Street, said he is thrilled about the valet service.

“It will definitely be a wonderful program for us as a theater by making parking easy for our patrons,” he said.

The managers of other businesses located on Temple Street, including Playwright New Haven and Kudeta, also said they were happy about the service.

Wessel said the city picked Propark from a group of three potential private firms because they felt Propark had the best chance of being successful. The company already has two valet services in New Haven, located near the Temple Medical Center and the Omni Hotel, both of which have been running smoothly, Wessel said.

Wessel said he does not anticipate that many Yale students will use the new valet service, since many of those with cars rent off-campus parking spaces. But Safford feels the University can only gain from the service’s establishment.

“Yale students, faculty and visitors will all be able to take advantage of the convenience and affordability that this valet service offers,” he said. “The New Haven on-street valet program is one of those rare instances where all parties involved benefit.”

Coupons for Propark’s New Haven locations are available online at the company’s Web site, as are maps and directions to the locations.

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