While some city officials are pushing to cash in on a municipally-owned Canal Street lot, some others are hoping to pump the brakes on the idea.
On Thursday, May 9, the Board of Aldermen authorized Mayor Mark Lauretti to place two pieces of city properties — one, the triangular parcel at 113 Canal Street, between Canal Street West and Canal Street East; the other, property listed as 252-254 Howe Avenue — on the market.
Less than a week later, on May 14, the Planning & Zoning Commission, in offering its mandated 8-24 referral recommendations concerning municipal land, gave its approval for the 252-254 Howe Avenue lot that has sat vacant for years, but voted in the negative regarding the Canal Street lot.
While the referrals are mandated, the aldermen can still pursue the "property’s sale if at least six members vote for the move. Planning & Zoning Commission members understand the city’s plan to place the lot on the market is probably inevitable, commission member Jimmy Tickey said it remains a perfect time to refocus on the availability, or lack thereof, of downtown parking.
“Maybe by not referring the potential sale of this property, we can finally get someone in city government going on forming a plan for downtown parking,” said Tickey, adding that the commission was told this lot could have as many as 30 spaces. “Why sell this land to a private developer when we need more space for parking?
“Everyone knows we need more available, free parking downtown,” said Tickey, “so that our businesses can grow.”
Tickey acknowledged that the city's downtown has become a strong residential area — with all new housing built having full occupancy within weeks of completion. But Tickey and the commission hope for a more vibrant downtown, with unique shops and eateries.
But to accomplish that goal, Tickey said more parking is required, and the commission hopes that offering a negative referral on placing 113 Canal Street on the real estate market can get city leaders focused on a parking plan.
Tickey said that Planning & Zoning years ago commissioned a downtown parking study, one that offered an idea of a two-tiered parking area at the corner of Coram Avenue and Center Street. Tickey said the commission even did a tour of a similar facility in South Norwalk, but, in the end, this idea has stalled.
“What new business is going to come to the downtown when there is no real parking available?” asked Tickey, adding that people hoping to dine or shop downtown may just go to Bridgeport Avenue instead because parking is more easily accessible, requiring little walking to get from place to place with lots available at the businesses.
Tickey said the commission is simply hoping a downtown parking plan — even one that involves public-private partnerships — can be formed sooner rather than later.
“We need to get serious about this,” said Tickey.
Lauretti has stated that he has already ordered appraisals on both properties. After receiving the appraisals, Lauretti told the aldermen that he would approach the prospective buyers, then come back to the board for final authorization.
“There is interest in the lots,” said Lauretti. “[These sales] should not take long.”
Lauretti said the 0.15-acre property at 252-254 Howe Avenue was foreclosed on by the city years ago after a fire destroyed the multi-unit apartment structure that had since been razed. The site is located across from Wharf Street and the Route 8 southbound exit ramp and is located between two multifamily buildings.
“This lot is sitting there. It is doing nothing, and we could use the revenue,” said Board of Aldermen President John Anglace. “It is time to cash in.”
brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com