By Shawn Regan
---- — The tinkering with Haverhill’s downtown parking continues.
And the latest changes will force some drivers to change their habits once again.
Five unmarked parking spaces next to Krueger Flatbread and Olivia’s restaurants on Batchelder Court are being added to the downtown’s paid parking program, to chase away day-long parkers who have been using the spaces for free train station parking, city officials said.
The five spaces, where parking has been free without time limits, will be numbered and linked with a nearby paid-parking kiosk, said the mayor’s aid David Van Dam. As with most street spaces near the new parking garage, drivers will pay 50 cents per hour from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. to park there during the work week.
Under the paid program, street parking is free from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but is limited to two hours. Drivers pay 50 cents per hour to park in city lots, the same as on-street parking. In September, a month after the paid program began, officials said they had sold more than 800 parking permits for $15 per month to people who live or work downtown. The permits are for permit-only and mixed-use spaces in various lots surrounding the downtown train station.
In addition to the new spaces added on Batchelder Court, five other spaces in the nearby Wingate Street parking lot are being converted from mixed-use spaces to permit-only spaces, Van Dam said. Those spaces have been available for metered parking and for people with permits. Van Dam said the change is designed to make more spaces available for people with permits in the downtown’s busiest lot.
City Council, which has final say over the paid parking program, approved those and two other changes proposed by Mayor James Fiorentini last week.
Two paid spaces on Essex Street have been eliminated due to a so-called sidewalk bump-out built there to improve handicapped accessibility to nearby buildings.
Lastly, two long-term spaces on Orchid Avenue, near the new Butch’s Uptown restaurant, have been converted to 15-minute-parking-only spots at the request of the eatery to accommodate its take-out dining customers.
Van Dam said the city’s Parking Commission, which recommends changes to the mayor, is considering adding more 15-minute spaces on Washington Street for restaurants that provide take-out meals.
He said he has invited councilors to the commission’s next meeting to discuss ideas for adding more of the short-term parking spaces on Washington Street. The mayor’s office and councilors have been discussing adding such spaces on Washington Street for several months at the request of those restaurants, but have been unsuccessful due to concerns about where to put the spaces and how to do it in way that is fair to all the eateries in that part of downtown.
The Parking Commission is expected to meet this week, Van Dam said. Its meetings are open to the public.
The paid parking program is designed to dissuade long-term parking by people such as commuters who ride the train and those who live and work downtown from parking for hours at a time in the heart of the business district. Instead, the city wants them to park on outlying streets such as Bailey Boulevard, where parking is free. The idea is this will open up pay spaces near restaurants and other businesses for customers and other short-term visitors to come and go quickly and conveniently.
Fiorentini has said he will continue to alter the plan based on feedback from residents, businesses and visitors to the area.