Local garage goes green

Parking in downtown New Haven just got a whole lot greener.

The Chapel Square Garage, located beneath the Omni Hotel on Temple Street, is slated to become Connecticut’s first, and the nation’s second, garage certified by the nonprofit Green Parking Council (GPC). Over the past year, the garage has worked to lower its electricity usage and make itself more friendly for electric car users, said Patrick Boeshans, the chief administrative officer of Propark America, the company that manages the garage.

The Chapel Square Garage’s new array of services are all entirely free of charge, including a charging station for hybrid cars.
The Chapel Square Garage’s new array of services are all entirely free of charge, including a charging station for hybrid cars.

“We’re starting a revolution by providing free charging for electric cars,” he said.

Propark America has always had a strong interest in environmentally friendly alternatives to standard parking spaces, Boeshans said. Last year, Propark America began collaborating with the GPC, which sets environmental certification standards for parking garages that choose to upgrade their facilities. The company then contacted United Illuminating, its utility provider, to talk about ways to lower its utility costs. Afterward, Propark America successfully appealed to the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund for $76,000 to install the upgrades.

Today, the Chapel Square Garage contains numerous environmentally sustainable features, such as light-emitting diodes in place of traditional fluorescent lighting to lower electricity and maintenance costs by roughly 75 percent, he said. Additionally, the garage now houses a recycling station, car tire pumps and a bicycle rental service. The greatest change in the garage is the addition of an electric car charging station compatible with such cars as the Chevrolet Volt or the Nissan Leaf.

John Schmid, the chief executive officer of Propark America and the chairman of the board at the GPC, said one of the most attractive aspects of the Chapel Square Garage’s new array of services is that it is entirely free of charge. The money that would have been spent on inefficient lighting is now helping to fund the garage’s green initiatives.

Christine Eppstein Tang, director of the New Haven Office of Sustainability, said the Chapel Square Garage is one of many “green” initiatives in the city. New Haven funds and endorses a program where all recyclable materials can be placed into one bin, as well as a free home energy auditing service, among other projects, she said.

“New Haven is a place where sustainability really happens,” Tang said. “In fact, Mayor [John] DeStefano [Jr.] was the first mayor east of the Mississippi to drive a hybrid car.”

Six Chapel Square Garage users interviewed said they were pleased with the garage’s new initiatives.

“I’m very impressed with Chapel Square Garage’s alternative to wasting energy and relying heavily on the Middle East for energy,” said Christopher Candido, the co-owner of the adjacent Temple Grill.

Lookesh Sharma, president of the travel agency Universal Travels on Chapel Street, said the presence of the electric car charging station will encourage more New Haven citizens to buy electric cars.

The Chapel Square Garage will be fully certified by the GPC by July 2011.

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