Potential Parking Problems at Lowell Justice Center
LOWELL -- Jurors, lawyers, court workers and defendants fighting one another for parking spaces later this year.
That’s the nightmare Lowell city councilors painted Tuesday night amidst concerns that the parking garage near the Lowell Justice Center won’t be ready in time.
The $200 million center could open this year, while the parking garage has made little progress -- and there are now major price concerns.
“I wonder if we’re going to have an open judicial center and no parking,” City Councilor Rita Mercier said. “I’m nervous about it.”
City Manager Eileen Donoghue reported Tuesday that bids for the $35 million garage in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District came in higher than expected.
As a result, the city will reassess the garage’s design.
“We will get you a full report,” Donoghue told the council.
The city raised parking rates last year to pay for the $35 million garage, along with paying for repairs in current garages.
Both Mercier and City Councilor Vesna Nuon made motions about the parking situation Tuesday night.
Mercier requested the city manager provide a report on the parking garage, outlining the time table.
Nuon requested the city manager establish a working group to examine the parking in the district over the short- and long-term.
It’s critical to implement a “contingency plan” if the judicial center opens before the garage, Nuon said.
“We’re going to have a nightmare with parking if that happens,” he said. “Employees need to know where to go.”
Even if the judicial center construction is complete before the garage, the courts could wait for some time, suggested City Councilor Edward Kennedy.
“They don’t have to move in right away,” he said.
Different courts are expected to phase in over many months, so the center won’t be fully occupied on day one, the city manager said.
The advisory body Nuon proposed would include members from the city Department of Planning and Development, Lowell Regional Transit Authority, Parking Authority, courts, state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, Hamilton Canal Innovation District commercial and residential communities, and any others determined by Donoghue.
City Councilor Rodney Elliott pushed back a bit, saying he wouldn’t want a working group to interfere with the city manager.
“I’m not sure that’s the best direction,” he said.
This wouldn’t restrict the city manager, Nuon responded. He simply wants other groups to provide as much information as possible for a contingency plan.
“We want to make sure we don’t have a problem with parking,” Nuon said.
His motion passed 6-3. The councilors voting no were Elliott, Mercier and Dave Conway.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.