Engineers unveiled two options for parking decks in downtown Millburn Thursday night. Each option would cost more than $8 million and create enough spaces to eliminate all 150 valet parking spaces and create an additional 64 to 70 spaces above what is currently available now, including valet.
One option is to create a deck on Municipal Parking Lot #2, which is located at the corner of Lackawanna Place and Essex Street. It would have a total of 362 spaces and cost $8.11 million ($22,410 per space), said Jim Zullo, vice president of Tim Haahs & Associates, an architecture and engineering firm that specializes in parking.
The façade would be designed to fit into the character of downtown and would have space for one additional retail business along Lackawanna. It would be 28 feet tall, except for the elevator tower, which would be 42 feet tall.
The upside to Lot #2, Zullo said, is that it is closer to downtown and could be used more easily for folks who want to do business in town, go shopping or out to eat.
“It serves both the commuters and the downtown district,” he said.
The downside, some residents thought, was that the plans had no elevated walkway from the garage to the train platform.
Zullo said that the walkway was not worth the cost because if it “impacts” New Jersey Transit’s platform at all, NJ Transit will make Millburn pay to make the entire platform accessible for those with disabilities, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The other option discussed is to build the deck on Municipal Lot #7, which is at the train station itself, behind the Millburn-Short Hills Volunteer Rescue Squad. The total construction cost for a deck on Lot #7 would be $8.44 million, but the lot would have 431 spaces at a cost of $19, 575 per parking space, Zullo said.
Because there were railroad spurs at the station between 1900 and 1930, there would have to be further study of the land on Lot #7 to make sure there’s nothing town officials would have to do environmentally if they dig up that site for a deck, said Mario Iannelli, a land development department head with Dewberry, a firm working with Tim Haahs on the plans.
Commuters would be the ones to shoulder the cost of the parking lot because their parking fees would go from approximately $360 per year to about $540, said Township Committee member Robert Tillotson, who is on the parking subcommittee.
“Taxpayers aren’t funding it,” Tillotson responded to someone who suggested they would be. “If you don’t park there, you won’t pay for it.”
Some in the audience suggested that if a deck is to be built, the town should move all the commuter-only spots from other municipal lots to the deck and free up spots elsewhere in town for shoppers.
Others suggested that perhaps a deck isn’t needed at all, that the town has enough parking if officials reallocated the current parking more efficiently.
“The biggest need is commuter parking, although people do say we need more parking in downtown, too,” Tillotson said.
Parking in lot #7 would do nothing for downtown, said some business owners, as it’s too far away.
Bill Deane, a vice president and traffic consultant with Dewberry, studied traffic patterns in Millburn and said that either way, the intersection at Lackawanna Place and Glen Avenue is going to be adversely impacted by a deck. However, he said, an all-way stop placed at that intersection would solve the problem.
“I would recommend the town do that whether they put in a parking deck or not,” he said. “I know there was talk about a signal there at one time but I wouldn’t spend the money on a signal at this point. You should try an all-way stop and see how it works.”
Construction for a deck would take 10 to 12 months, and township officials are looking for other parking options to use during that time – possibly at the recycling center or the site of Rimback Building after it is torn down, Tillotson said.
The public’s next view of the plans will likely be June 16, and Tillotson said he hopes to bring it back for a vote by the Township Committee on June 21.
The Power Point presentation that Zullo made will be posted on the Township’s website sometime Friday morning.