A Millyard parking study recommended building a $10 million garage at the Bedford Street lot in Manchester that would hold 500 vehicles with capacity to handle several hundred more should the historic district's growth continue as a hot spot for mature companies and young, fast-growing tech firms.
The Florida-based Lansing Melbourne Group consultant suggested the city could build a public garage with public funding on its own. Or it could partner with a private developer to construct a hotel, condos and apartments above the garage. Lastly, a private developer could handle the project with the city ensuring public parking would be available.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen accepted the study at its June 4 meeting and asked consultant Peter Flotz to conduct a marketing study on the feasibility of each option and present his findings at its July 2 meeting.
"The Millyard traditionally has been home to moderate size tenants with a specific desire to be in a loft or historic space and with a willingness to trade some minor inconveniences for the 'cool factor' and ambience of the Mill buildings," Flotz wrote.
But in interviews with companies and organizations that lease or own space in the Millyard it became clear there is a limit to the inconveniences they would tolerate, he said.
"Again and again what we were told was that the number one issue in the Millyard is parking," Flotz said of insufficient parking to meet employee, tenant and public demand.
Millyard buildings comprise approximately 3.9 million square feet, he said. At least 230,000 square feet is currently available. An engineering company has a tentative lease to occupy 50,000 square feet of that space by the end of the year, Flotz said.
"I've been talking about this for three years, how to do a public-private partnership to develop the lot. I don't need a parking study to know folks down there need parking,"Mayor Ted Gatsas said. "UNH, Dyn, Brady Sullivan, they all need parking."
A 500-space garage would cost more than $10 million to build — leaving a $200,000 to $275,000 annual cash flow shortfall needed to pay off a loan, Flotz said.
Possible options to cover the cost would be tapping the city's existing parking revenue fund — but Flotz said that money now goes into the general fund and doing so would negatively impact city operations.
Raising the $75 monthly rate currently charged at Victory Garage is another option as is creating a $120 to $125 monthly "reserved" parking rate for premium spaces.Other possibilities are encouraging a private developer to build a hotel or apartment-condominium complex on top of the garage. Further study is needed to determine the financial viability of these options, he said.