Haverhill restaurant owners, hoping to revive their businesses in the aftermath of COVID-19, are expressing concern over the potential lack of parking downtown.
City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua told his colleagues Tuesday night he has spoken with several downtown business owners who have said they are afraid that customers will turn away if they cannot find parking. He said this applies to on-street parking as well as the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority garage.
“Many people have told me that when they’ve gone there, many of the residents are actually back in the garage now from work and they’ve consequently taken up many of the spaces,” he said.
Bevilacqua presented two ideas to the Council which he said may help them get a handle on how to address the issue. The first, to send a letter to Haverhill Public Works Director Michael K. Stankovich asking him to tally the number of available on-street parking spaces in the district, the number of monthly parking passes issued and what the balance of available spaces would be on street and in parking lots.
He also suggested investing in a digital counter, to be used at the parking garage, which would tell drivers how many spaces are available.
“What that is, is simply a counter, so that when someone enters the garage, it deducts that amount of available spaces. So, let’s say there are 100 available spaces, 10 cars opened, it suddenly reads outside 90 available spaces,” he explained.
Stankovich disputed the parking garage is always full. “So, I did see some of the occupancy numbers. Typically, it averages about 60 percent. So, other than snowstorms, there’s always plenty of room to park in the parking garage,” he responded,
Councilor William J. Macek, a member of the Downtown Haverhill Parking Commission said, during a recent meeting, Parking Consultant John Burke suggested issuing different levels of parking passes. That would, for example, keep downtown employees from parking in the most sought-after spaces. Instead, they would have to park in areas a little further away. He said the Commission will be discussing that idea in an upcoming meeting.
The Council gave unanimous approval to Bevilacqua’s motions to send letters to Stankovich, MVRTA and Downtown Haverhill Parking Commission.
The matter has been a longstanding concern of the City Council. More than a year ago, Councilor Colin F. LePage also asked how many spaces were actually left in downtown Haverhill garages and parking lots after they were rented to housing developments. The city’s parking contractor undertook the study last fall.
Similarly, LePage also asked about existing and future parking space capacity along Merrimack and Washington Streets.