2014-09-19 / Front Page

Council drives at parking solution

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — As problems go, it’s not the worst one to have. With economic activity heating up in South Portland’s historic Knightville district, parking is at a premium. But as those parking spots start to fill up, the pace of empty shops similarly springing to life threatens to stall, and even stop.

“Every time there is a prospective person considering doing something down there, the question always comes up, ‘Is there more parking?’” said Mayor Gerard Jalbert, summing up a recent conversation with Jon Jennings, the city’s economic development director.

With that in mind, the city council voted unanimously Monday to spend $129,847 on a project designed to transform a former bus turnaround on Waterman Drive into 32 spaces of on-street parking.

“Quite honestly, this is over-needed,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher.

The hope, Beecher said, is that the new spots will be used by employees of area businesses, which will free up spots for customers of shops along Ocean Street and elsewhere in the area.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, money to pay for the parking-space project will come from a Community Development Block Grant, and not from local property taxes.

Work on the new parking area, located next to Legere Park, between E and C Streets, is slated to begin in October and be complete by Nov. 14.

On Monday, the council awarded the project to Woods Excavating of Gorham, which submitted the lowest of five bids opened at city hall on Sept. 5. Woods Excavating bid $129,847 ; the four other contractors submitted proposals that ranged from $154,174 to $204,268.

Two area residents spoke in favor of the project during Monday’s council meeting, with Ocean Street resident Linda Slater asking councilors to flag the new spots for overnight parking. However, Public Works Director Doug Howard said that would be problematic, while Jalbert pointed out that South Portland does not allow overnight on-street parking anywhere in the city during the winter.

Howard also noted that a proposal to create even more parking spaces along Waterman Drive, between A and B streets, was removed from the current project. However, that idea, “could come back onto the table at a future time,” he said.

As part of the project, Woods Excavating will tear up the old bus loop, little used since traffic was diverted from Waterman Drive by the opening of the new Casco Bay Bridge, and lay down new pavement. Workers also will add new granite curbing, rebuild the sidewalk, and make improvements to crosswalks, landscaping and drainage.

Councilor Tom Blake pointed out that, in the end, the city is simply replacing parking spots it once took away.

“We took out parking on Waterman (Drive] a few years ago to create bump-outs and an esplanade,” he said. “So, it’s kind of ironic how that’s come around.”

Even so, Knightville could yet need even more parking, if it continues to grow, at least according to Councilor Linda Cohen.

“We’re victims of our own success,” she said. “And, if we’re as successful in rebuilding Knightville as we hope to be, at some point someone is going to be telling us we need to put up a parking garage.”

Return to top