The city of Middletown is working to alleviate a parking problem in downtown after a parking structure was forced to close last month due to unsafe conditions.
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.
Over the last 10 years the garage started to deteriorate, Thazhampallath said. 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.
There were some fixes, but it all became exponentially worse this winter with the constant freezing and thawing. A structural engineer who visited in February said the garage needed to close down.
“I’ll take the criticism for being too early on this one, but don’t want to be too late. And we saw what could happen, the worst case scenarios are loss of life or people being maimed,” Thazhampallath said.
But the closure has created a parking problem in downtown. It’s frustrating for Pamela Steele, owner of Pamela Roose Specialty Hand Knits & Yarn. The store is directly across the street from the “parking arcade.”
She said her business has suffered since the structure closed.
“People don’t know where to park and with the weather being the way it’s been, they don’t want to park so far away and have to walk,” Steele said.
She expected the garage to close at some point, but not this soon. Steele said the city has been trying to help her by allowing customers to park directly in front of her store for a short period of time.
The city is working looking for a solution for the lack of spaces. the Common Council approved two bonds totaling $875,000 for the engineering, design and addition of street meters and street parking. That includes making some roads one-way. This could happen as early as May 1, Thazhampallath said.
Another $750,000 bond is up for a vote April 12 to demolish the “parking arcade,” he added.
Mayor Daniel Drew said they’ll put new spots there, too. But the garage is about 60 years old and something needed to be done.
“If I wouldn’t park my own family there, I’m not going to park anyone else’s,” Drew said.