Council: Without Upgrade, Parking Deck Will Stunt Merrimack Street’s Future

The Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The need for repeated repairs coupled with the potential for a residential building boom may have set the countdown clock ticking on the future of the Herbert H. Goecke Parking Deck on Merrimack Street.

City Councilor Melinda Barrett listed a series of restoration projects undertaken on the deck in little more than a year.

The latest, only days ago, was to fix a collapsed  sprinkler system in the ceiling of the lower deck. The parking section was closed while low-hanging water pipes were replaced.

Last year, the city made $200,000 worth of repairs on deteriorating joints on the east side of the deck. Also last year, lights in the lower level had to be replaced because water infiltration caused them to rot.

Barrett said talk of development projects planned in the next few years will easily use up the remaining 60 spaces available in the deck.

“There’s going to be a point that we’ll have to face the fact that we’re going to need something else there,” Barrett said. “When cars are circling the area looking for a place to park, it won’t help us to develop the rest of the street.”

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan agreed the time to make a move is now.

“It’s like the elephant in the room when you talk about the future growth of Merrimack Street. How long can we wait? Over the next five to seven years, we’ve got to have something ready to go or under construction or we’re going to impede the development of Merrimack Street.”

Councilor William J. Macek resurrected a suggestion he made in the fall of 2015 to send requests for proposals for redevelopment of the deck, which would include commercial and residential development in front of the deck and a larger parking structure behind.

“I would like to see a real major development come in where the Goecke deck is,” Macek said.

Barrett suggested the city could redevelop the parcel on its own, or partner with someone. Either way, she said, it’s a good time to issue bonds for the project.

“Money is really cheap right now,” she said.

Councilor Timothy J. Jordan said redevelopment of the parking deck can be part of a comprehensive, strategic plan.

“Doing it now, before we get to crisis mode, makes all the sense in the world,” Jordan said.

Councilors agreed to send a letter to the mayor seeking action on the deck.