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.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Posted by Sean Roche at 5:09 AM