Reminder: WRA Meeting on downtown tomorrow

Friendly reminder that there will be a public hearing tomorrow, February 26, at 5:30 pm in the Levi Lincoln Chamber at City Hall for a WRA citizens advisory committee to discuss the Theater District and more.

On a related note, WoMag reports that the Chamber of Commerce has unveiled an interactive map of development opportunities downtown.

Those of you who use the McGrath Lot on a regular basis will be pleased to note that it’s tagged as a “Development Opportunity” and that those interested in developing it should contact the Chamber of Commerce for more details.

Now, I don’t think a parking lot is the best and highest use of the space that the McGrath Lot is in, but I’m not sure why someone should contact the Chamber of Commerce about developing it and not, say, the folks who actually own the property — the City of Worcester Off-Street Parking Board.

When we previously looked at the McGrath Lot, we found a rainbow of colors being used for a “green” section and an “orange” section.

We heard back from the folks at DPW a few weeks ago.  They (disappointingly) did not answer questions about whether someone who has an HP placard needs to pay if all the handicapped parking spaces are full.  But they did make it perfectly clear that folks should not park in the green zone.

At the February 10 City Council meeting, Councilor Lukes asked about the state of affairs at the McGrath Lot.

In short, the City Manager said that changes needed to be made to accommodate the QCC students.

It’s unclear why the McGrath Lot needs to be making the accommodations, or even who made that decision.

Many library staff members are not able to park in the McGrath Lot and instead park at the Green Street lot.  And, as Councilor Lukes pointed out, to add insult to injury, they have to respond to numerous questions/complaints about a parking lot that they are not responsible for, receive no revenue from, and — in some cases — can’t even park in.

My impression was that any changes to rates and parking policies should be set by the Off-Street Parking Board.  According to the city boards and commissions agenda site, this board hasn’t met since 2013.  So — who said it was ok to carve off 1/4 of the busiest, most profitable public surface lot in the city?

Whatever you do, don’t take the City Manager’s word for it.

He said that the lot is now being used a lot more than it was historically.

I beg to differ.

The McGrath Lot has consistently made money for the city, in large part due to the traffic generated by the Worcester Public Library.

Compare that to the Federal Plaza Garage, which is just as close (if not closer) to the QCC location at 20 Franklin Street, and which usually has an operating deficit on the order of $200,000 a year.  Why wasn’t that considered when QCC was looking for student parking spots?  Couldn’t it use all the revenue it can get?

[Side note: every time you pay $10 at the Federal Plaza Garage for a Hanover Theatre event, $9 goes to the Hanover and $1 goes to the city.  I suspect if all the money went to the city that owned the garage, it might actually be in the black, or close to it]

In the grand scheme of things, a parking lot next to a library doesn’t seem like much.

But this is a parking lot many of us park in when we go to the library or public meetings at City Hall.

It’s a parking lot that’s been in the sights of developers who have no sense of appropriate urban design (indoor college hockey complexes, anyone?) and that has had a section reserved for a private entity, with (as far as I can tell) no public hearing or input.  If certain folks had their way, they’d take this parcel (for a song), library staff and patrons be damned.

I don’t have a problem with the city selling monthly parking passes at the McGrath Lot, or any public garage or lot.

But let’s not pretend that fining people $25 for parking in a poorly-labeled, underused reserved section of a public parking lot means that the lot is being used more than it was six months ago.

(If you want to read more about parking in Worcester, the Parking Program Assessment from a few years ago is an excellent place to start.)

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