The Middletown City Council voted Thursday to tear down a downtown parking garage that was forced to shut down earlier this year due to unsafe conditions, but the solution to that safety problem creates a new problem – a lack of available parking space.
The “parking arcade” once offered 300 parking spaces. Parking Director Geen Thazhampallath said the city closed the bottom level almost two years ago due to safety concerns. The top level, about 175 public spots, was forced to close in early March.
Residents who spoke to NBC Connecticut said a solution for the parking problems can’t come soon enough.
“Where are we going to park? We went up and down the street and kept thinking that we saw spots but they were handicapped,” said Essex resident Shelia Myers.
Residents and visitors alike all know finding a spot to park in downtown Middletown can be a struggle.
“It can be frustrating. You want to go this place and you’re wondering if you can find a spot there,” Middletown resident Justin Olson said.
But city officials said they had no choice but to shut the parking arcade down.
Over the last 10 years the garage started to deteriorate. Concrete would crumble and fall from the upper level of the garage, and water would seep into electrical boxes causing sparks and joints were wearing out fast. From some parts of the lower garage, the sky is visible.
“I’d rather have people frustrated than have somebody die in a catastrophic accident,” said Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D)
At a special City Council meeting members voted to approve $750,000 to be spent on the takedown of the deteriorating structure.
“You saw what happened in Florida a couple weeks ago… I’m not going to take any chances. I’m not going to take any chances. I’m not going to have that responsibility of seeing someone get hurt because we didn’t do the right thing because we were afraid of some backlash,” Drew said.
The council issued bonds of an equal amount to cover the appropriation of the funds for the project. Some councilmembers expressed concerns over the process leading up to the vote and wonder about the project’s execution. But the mayor said for safety’s sake, now is the time to act on the issue.
“At the end of the day this is our responsibility and we’re not going to play around with people’s lives,” Drew said.
Drew told NBC Connecticut he wants to begin the demolition process as soon as possible. He said they’ll be asking the City Council for a bid waiver for the project. In the meantime, to make up for ome of the lost parking, they’ll be adding street parking spaces.