Letter: Metered parking unfair to Nautilus
PITTSFIELD — Let me open by saying we are excited at the realization that finally there will be a new parking lot on Summer Street. We are also very grateful that the schedule has strong incentives for early completion and also financial penalties for late completion of the project. I think the 60 day time table is important to all concerned, downtown businesses and visitors alike.
Despite a two-page letter written and submitted to Mayor Tyer on Jan. 10 as well as a follow-up letter submitted March 5 to the ward councilor outlining my questions and concerns about the process, timetable, and plans for alternative parking during demolition and reconstruction of the Summer Street lot, I was never contacted directly in reply to my letters by the mayor's office, community development department, or my city councilor regarding any of these concerns.
Unrelated to these letters, I was contacted in late March by [Community Development official] Laura Mick, who through this entire process has been most helpful, and was told that all these issues and others were to be discussed at an abutters meeting with city officials on April 3 (three days after the start of the project). It was there and then I learned the plan for the Summer Street lot.
I was stunned to learn, for the first time, at this meeting, that not only would there be no additional free three-hour public parking spaces created with the reconstruction, but more alarmingly, all of the free three-hour public spaces that my clients have come to depend on were being removed. No more free three-hour public parking at all, despite the fact that I had been led to believe that these spaces would remain both free and three-hour. It was then made clear to me, again I add, for the first time, that these currently existing three-hour free parking spaces would now all be metered. No one up to this point in any conversation with me had mentioned the "m" word.
It appears now, that this was the plan all along. I felt deceived. As the owner of the building directly across from the parking garage, a building housing Berkshire Nautilus, which directly depends on this free public parking for the service of its members, as well as other building tenants, who also depend on the current downtown free public parking covenant, how is it that I was not made aware of this plan until now? It would seem that I was intentionally left in the dark, despite all of the city's informational newspaper articles. even those mentioning the mayor's rental car plans for the new lot, but yet not one word on the plan for metered parking.
The negative impact to Berkshire Nautilus as a result of metered parking cannot be overstated. Our clients are not the typical downtown visitors or eatery diners who may shop or dine once a week, once a month, or even a couple of times a week, using the parking lot facilities. Some of our clients (between 150 to 200 persons daily) come in more than once a day, and most of them come in every day. Charging for parking, however minimal it may seem, represents an unfair user fee, in effect, a surtax, on our membership. It effectively doubles our membership cost and puts us at an unfair disadvantage to our big box, non-downtown, competitors.
Some 20 years back when Berkshire Nautilus sought a new home in support of the city's plan for the then proposed downtown stadium, we purchased the Yon building, then in disrepair, and with an investment of well over $1 million we were one of the first early risk-takers in the revitalization effort for downtown Pittsfield, even before notable downtown pioneers Larry Rosenthal and Joyce Bernstein.
Central to Berkshire Nautilus' rationale for our move to Summer Street was the parking availability for our membership, as we were leaving more than ample parking on West Street for a smaller private lot and were promised an expansive free public lot for our growing membership. So it was in the past that our partnership with the city began with our support for its downtown growth. Now, we would like the city of Pittsfield to do its part by showing its support for Berkshire Nautilus and its members.
We are appealing to the city to recognize the parking difficulties in downtown Pittsfield, and rather than make the existing economic climate worse for downtown businesses, help us out by making visits to downtown Pittsfield less problematic for both the public and its downtown businesses. We all want a vibrant downtown. Let us together not move backward, but rather move forward toward that goal.
The writer, the owner of Berkshire Nautilus, read this letter to the Pittsfield City Council on Tuesday.
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