Parking garage finally opens

Parking garage finally opens

Brush, Cassandra Hemenway

This spring Brattleboro looks a lot different than it did a year ago. For one thing, all the construction that clogged up downtown is complete. For another, visitors won’t have to circle the downtown area for half an hour to find a parking space anymore thanks to the city’s new parking garage.

The $9 million, 305 space “Brattleboro Transportation Center” sits just one block from Main Street. Since Thanksgiving, 2003, it has been providing parking mainly for people who live and work in downtown Brattleboro, opening up street parking to visitors. It provides both long-term and short-term parking and places to lock bicycles. Partially funded with federal transportation money, it’s tied in to Amtrak’s Union Station a block away, providing parking for rail commuters.

“We have noticed a definite difference in the ability to park. That’s always been a challenge for Brattleboro downtown businesses,” said Bob Woodworth, owner Burrows Specialized Sports and chairman of the Downtown Parking Study Committee.

Indeed, the Transportation Center, said Woodworth, “is more than a parking garage.”

“It does accommodate parking for 305 cars,” he explained, “but it’s also a bus and taxi stop, it has long-term bike lockers. It ties in with Amtrak if people want to use it as a place to park and go on the train. It’s very well located for the Central Business District. The long term parkers have started to move into it, which allows better parking for visitor and shoppers.”

Woodworth also said he thinks the parking garage will free up space for bigger events, such as some of the Latchis Theater’s events, which summons several hundred visitors in a night.

“I think (the garage) is good for downtown Brattleboro,” said Tom Franks, the new Executive Director of Building a Better Brattleboro. “It takes the stress off the Harmony Lot which is designed as a shorter term lot and not able to perform that function.”

“One of our biggest problems was that people would drive around the block half a dozen times looking for a parking space,” said Tom Appel, Transportation Center Project Manager and owner of New England Management Company. “There was such a lack of capacity that it was increasing vehicle traffic. Now, hopefully you can get your car shut off sooner, and get out and shop.”

And after a so-so retail year last year, Brattleboro retailers want happy shoppers.

Donna Simons, co-owner of the downtown rug and furniture store, A Candle In the Night, agrees with Appel. As a member of the BABB’S parking study committee, she was well aware of how the Harmony Lot had “the most problems” with people congesting it with allday parking.

“That’s just not happening anymore,” she said. “(The parking garage) has been a tremendous success.”

“It got my car off the street,” said Appel “I can park (in the garage) and walk to the office, and let someone else do the curbside parking.”

The garage pulls in 200 cars a day, out of 305 available spaces.

“It’s more than we expected,” Appel said. “It’s creating that much more opportunity for people to park closer to where they’re going shopping.”

Appel said the garage was 10 years in the making, and received a diversity of funding sources. The Vermont Downtown Program contributed $1 million – or $100,000 annually for 10 years (of which the Center has used $400,000 so far); a local bond issue of $4 million; $660,000 in ‘Vermont Agency of Transportation funds; plus “excess” money from Brattleboro’s parking fund that had. built up over 10 years to about $800,000, he said.

A federal transportation grant provided another $3.5 million, but that money tied it in with Union Station, the historic train depot. Part of the federal grant will be used to renovate the depot waiting room and make the grounds more accessible to the rail road track, including installing paved parking, and “making (the grounds) more attractive and inviting.”

“Then we can show how both projects together create more opportunities for people to visit Brattleboro,” he said.

Appel also said the Transportation and Union Center improvements connect with the local and regional bus system. As well, he said, both the train depot renovations and the new parking garage sit beside the “Whetsone Path,” a walking path in development connecting businesses throughout the downtown district.

“Once again, it provides an opportunity not to rely strictly on your car to get everywhere you go.”

Copyright Boutin-McQuiston, Inc. May 01, 2004

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved