NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 9, 2013

Quietly, plans for parking garage have shrunk and faded

NEWBURYPORT — The status of plans to build a parking garage in the downtown might be described as being somewhere between dormant and dismissed.

Lack of funds appears to have consigned the project to a status where it is not being actively pursued by either regional or municipal leaders. And the size of the project has shrunk considerably.

Joseph Costanzo, administrator for the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, said this week that a lack of funding has meant the project has not been in an active phase.

“Federal funds do not appear available,” said Costanzo. “Perhaps we can put the pieces together, but at this point the lack of money is a big stumbling point.”

The prospect of a parking garage at the corner of Merrimac and Titcomb streets has long been discussed in the city. Nearly a decade ago, the City Council came within one vote of approving a plan for a city-built garage that would hold over 300 cars in a garage on the former Fitness Factory site.

In 2010, The MVRTA proposed a more ambitious plan for a garage that bridged over Titcomb Street. The footprint was spread out across four lots of land — the former Fitness Factory site on the west side of Titcomb; the former Lombardi Oil Co. site and a neighboring wood-framed building on the east side of Titcomb; and a former gas station site on Merrimac Street.

One sector of the garage would have housed buses operated by the authority, and another portion of the structure would host vehicles of residents and visitors. Storefronts were also considered along Merrimac Street.

Architectural sketches were developed and public meetings held. The mayor and City Council approved the concept of building the garage there, but no money was available and no action was taken.

Since then, plans for a parking garage have remained on the MVRTA’s books, but in a much diminished form. The size has been shrunk to less than 100 parking spaces, and in its most recent form, it only occupies the lots on the east side of Titcomb Street. Most of that land is owned by Stephen Karp’s Newburyport Development company.

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