Newburyport is preparing to open its first parking garage, fulfilling a longstanding goal that city officials said will allow for expansion of a waterfront park and ease downtown traffic.
Set to open by mid-April or early May, the $13.5 million garage at Merrimack and Titcomb streets is being called an intermodal transit and parking facility by the city because in addition to its 207 parking spaces, it will feature a turnaround area out front for Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority buses to discharge and pick up passengers. It also will have an indoor bike rack.
Building a downtown parking garage is an objective city leaders had pursued without success for at least two decades, stymied by funding constraints, disagreements over where to locate the facility, and other hurdles.
The project gained steam in 2016 when the city secured a $5 million state grant for the plan, and the following year when it purchased the downtown lot from New England Development for $2.2 million. The approximately $11.3 million cost of design and construction is being funded through the state grant, a $1.4 million federal grant, and $4.9 million derived from past and future parking revenues.
Andrew Port, Newburyport’s director of planning and development, said opening the 2½-story Titcomb Street Parking Garage will allow the city to gradually eliminate up to 150 of the 370 spaces in two dirt parking lots owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority on the central waterfront. That in turn will allow the city to eventually increase the size of an adjacent waterfront park.
“It reduces the footprint of parking in the downtown, thereby encouraging more pedestrian movement,” Port said. “It will also decrease some of the traffic we have downtown. And it will enable us to expand the central waterfront park in a way we have not been able to do in the past because we did not have a place to put those parking spaces.”
The project also will provide the first permanent place in downtown Newburyport for buses to pick up and discharge passengers. Over the years, the transit authority has used various makeshift locations. Additionally, by encouraging walking, bicycling, and electric vehicles — the garage will include a charging station — Port said the project also will benefit the local environment.
“Newburyport citizens have been very pleased with the design of our new Titcomb Street Parking Garage, which required sensitive architectural detailing for compatibility with historic downtown Newburyport,” Mayor Donna D. Holaday said by e-mail.
“This new facility, while encouraging transit use, bike ridership, and increased use of electric vehicles in the coming years, is also the first key step towards expansion of our central waterfront park,” Holaday added. “The location of this facility, adjacent to Route 1 will also reduce traffic congestion in Market Square where pedestrian activity is encouraged.”
With its brick veneer — bricks were embedded in the precast concrete exterior walls — and window treatments, the garage was designed to be compatible with the historical architecture of the downtown.John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.