Monday, January 10, 2011

Riverside lot not for Newton residents

Natick man got a ticket from Wellesley the day he parked in Newton, in the Riverside lot. Funny story. Wellesley town staff used a hand-held ticketing scanner, supposedly coded not to issue tickets, to do a license-place survey of cars in the Riverside lot. But, they accidentally issued tickets on the surveyed cars.

Why is Wellesley doing a survey of an MBTA lot in Newton? Because the town wants to know the transportation choices that its residents make. And, enough of them are presumably using the Riverside lot to matter. And, apparently, folks from Natick, too.

How, exactly, is this good for Newton?


Saturday, January 8, 2011

How the aldermen helped kill the Atrium

The Atrium has a bunch of flaws*, but when you ask people why they don't like to shop there, the number one complaint is parking. Not "they don't have any stores I like." Parking. It was parking when there was William-Sonoma and other now gone stores were there. It was parking when the economy was humming along.

Parking. Parking. Parking.

People hate it.

But, when you consider the Atrium from a land-use perspective, the number one thing it's got going for it is parking. It's a building with over 100,000 square feet of retail space and around 20 surface parking spaces. It's a giant parking structure with a few stores above it. By comparison, the first phase of Chestnut Hill Square is going to have just under 250,000 sq. ft. and 699 surface parking spaces. To be fair, the planned but not guaranteed second phase will have a 300+ space parking garage when the 90-100 residential spaces are built. And, the second phase will eliminate about 100 surface spaces. But, in the end it'll be about 600 surface spaces.

So, what's the board got to do with this?

In a not-even-perfect world, we'd have a lot more structured parking. Surface parking encourages sprawl, creates run-off problems, &c. But, structured parking is at least marginally less appealing for shoppers who drive. So, a mall -- like Chestnut Hill Square or the Mall at Chestnut Hill -- will be a more appealing option than something like the Atrium, which is served almost exclusively by a parking garage. When Land Use and then the full board capitulated to New England Development's one-less-surface-space-and-we-walk threat**, they not only doomed Chestnut Hill Square from a land-use perspective, but they made things worse for the Atrium in this particular regard. It's not only a competing mall within spitting distance, it's a competing mall with more surface parking.

Obviously, this is a regional problem. Making more structured parking at Chestnut Hill Square wouldn't undo the attraction of the surface parking at the Mall at Chestnut Hill or the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center or any of the dozens of surface-parking surrounded shopping options in the area. But, it sure would have been nice if the board had not reduced the incentive to provide structured parking.

* Pedestrian access across the front is awful. The wall along Florence Street is inhospitable. No open space. Possibly even not enoughsurface parking.

** The irony, of course, is that New England Development built the Atrium and it's underground parking garage, which undoubtedly cost 2 or 3 times per parking space what an above-ground garage would cost, and built it with far more capacity then has ever been met by demand.