Monday, October 5, 2009

Panera in Newton Centre

Panera Bread wants to open a 111-seat restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Tess on Centre Street. (Tess has consolidated as Tess & Carlos next door.) To open, Panera needs a special permit waiving its requirement to provide 25 parking spaces. Here's the Planning Department memo on the special permit application (PDF).

The parking waiver raises some fairly complicated issues, which I may address in another post. But, assuming that the Land Use committee is amenable to a waiver, the committee should require as a condition of the waiver that Panera (actually the property owner) deed, lease, or otherwise transfer eight private parking spaces to the city.

The optimal parking for Newton Centre, indeed for any of our village centers, is shared parking, ideally municipally owned (so that it can be metered parking).Shared parking is efficient. Spaces are available for whatever demand arises and serve complementary uses. Centrally located shared parking reduces the need for curb cuts to private parking lots. Fewer curb cuts mean more uninterrupted commercial streetscapes and more on-street parking spaces.

Store-only parking, like the nine spaces serving the building now (to be reduced to eight), is not optimal. Store-only spaces are inefficient. When there is little or no demand from the stores served, unoccupied spaces are unusable by customers of other stores. And, store-only spaces discourage people from parking once and shopping at more than one store, a practice that is both ecologically sound and creates commercial vitality.

Panera intends to meet most of its parking demand with the municipal lots and on-street parking. That's appropriate. But, they are also planning to the private spaces. Since Panera intends to meet most of its demand with shared parking, it should contribute its private spaces to the inventory of shared parking in Newton Centre.

Panera's private spaces are accessible from Pelham Street by a private entrance. Adding the eight spaces to the municipal lot might allow the city to close that curb cut and possibly add two more on-street spaces on Pelham Street. In any case, it would remove a constraint and possibly lead to a more efficient design of the Pelham Street lot.


Ginny Robinson said...

Reducing curb cuts is not a good idea. Once again, we limit handicapped (not the latest in term, I fear, but can't recall what it is) people -- and this time by negating some hard-fought assistances.

Sean Roche said...


I'm not suggesting eliminating curb cuts that serve accessibility purposes. I'm talking about curb cuts that are driveway entrances.

Two entirely different things.

Schuyler Larrabee said...

I happened to go to the Panera in Coolidge Corner last night. The seat count (I tried to be unobtrusive, but did get some funny looks) is in the same neighborhood, I think. The employee count is about seven or eight employees. These eight spaces would most likely be a) used for the employees, and b) provide the access way for deliveries to Panera. I understand and share the desire for off-street back-of-house parking lots, but I don't think that they should have to give up the employee benefit of on-site parking for them. Otherwise, the employees are competing for the paid spaces, not so good an idea.

H.M. said...

panera should absolutely not be allowed to come into newton center. There isn't any parking to begin with, let alone for a 110 seat restaurant! have you been to newton center lately for lunch? impossible to get a seat. Hopefully the board of alderman know whats going on, but as per usual they wont, and it will create problems for every one!!

Geoff said...

Send our Aldermen an email and let them know what you are thinking. The vote is on Monday!

Anonymous said...

I like bread. And Jacob Orwitz. These are two solid reasons why we need a Panera Bread in our city. Jacob Orwitz also loves bread. He loves putting his special Jacob Orwitz juice on his Panera bread.

010 All Day.

Anonymous said...

Panara rapes. Nuff said.
-connor ebz

Anonymous said...

Panera is where its at... stop complaining and walk the extra 40 seconds to get to the door

Anonymous said...

The lots behind where the Panara will be located are more than half empty most of the time, if parking is such an issue, walk the extra couple feet and stop complaining. Parking is not as big of an issue as people are playing it off to be.

John Sarvey said...

I've lived in the area for 8 years now. I have never (not even once) ever had a problem finding a place to park in Newton Center no matter what time of day. If we have a parking problem it is not due to a shortage of parking, but to some people not knowing where the parking is.

I applaud the approval for Panera to come to Newton Centre. I like eating there and so do my kids. They've got great food, great service and a great atmosphere.