Parking garage redux

10Feb17

So you thought that the idea of a parking garage on the town-owned lot between and behind the Cooperative Bank and Jeffrey’s Package Store was as dead as Parke Snow’s or The Armory?

Think again.

The Selectmen at their last meeting talked about reviving the possibility, noting that parking hasn’t gotten any easier in the downtown since the original plan to build a garage went down in flames. Several of them say that they’ve been hearing from residents who wonder if the parking garage proposal might be revived in some form.

downtown_parking

The first parking garage idea came out of Shelter Development’s original proposal to build a Brightview Senior Living assisted living/memory care facility on Crescent Street. The town wanted the project to include independent living units, in hopes it would help with downtown economic development. The town offered to convey to Shelter an unused lot behind The Savings Bank’s ATM kiosk if Shelter would agree to include independent living as part of their project and build, at their own expense, a parking garage with spaces for public use.

Town Meeting initially approved the land conveyance by a wide margin and Shelter was on board. But a small group of activists collected enough signatures to force a Special Election. After a bitter political campaign to stop the “giveaway” of town land, the conveyance of the lot was defeated, effectively killing the garage deal.

stop_land_giveaway2

The opponents thought that was the end of the Brightview project too. After all, it was never really about the garage. Their real goal was to stop the evil profit-making corporation from building its facility for well-heeled codgers. They thought they had scored a victory for the little people over Big Assisted Living.

They miscalculated.

By now you’ve probably noticed something is in fact being constructed in the area between Crescent and Main streets. And unless you’re one of the more clueless posters on Facebook, you know that that building being erected is none other than a Brightview Senior Living facility.

You’ve probably also noticed something else: It’s HUGE.

It was always going to be massive. But as a lot of local people have now figured out, the town ended up with the same gigantic building – but no public parking garage.

Good thing we stopped that town land giveaway.

The top portion of the building can be seen looming over some of the smaller buildings in the downtown. But where its size really hits you is when you look down the empty space between the Co-op Bank and Jeffrey’s. That’s where the entrance of parking garage would have been, essentially blocking the view of the tallest part of the Brightview building.

brightview_height

Some people now think they got snookered by the anti-Brightview activists, especially once they got to see some of them in action during a years-worth of meetings and public hearings leading up to the approval of the current garage-less project.

Some (not all) of the opponents made a habit of questioning the integrity of anyone who was not as rabid as they were in their opposition to Brightview. They spread misinformation about the project and insisted that they were “not against assisted living” even as they signed a petition to eliminate Wakefield’s Assisted Living District.

They spread innuendo about town officials and publicly insulted Shelter executives – and then whined when they weren’t allowed to filibuster ad infinitum at public meetings.

It’s quite possible that in light of everything that’s happened over the course of the last couple of years, a majority of the public would now welcome a new version of the garage proposal. Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio says he’ll put out feelers to Shelter/Brightview to see if they’re still willing to participate.

The big question is, after all of the insults, innuendo and misinformation spewed by a few activists over the last few years, would Brightview have any inclination to get involved again?

One could hardly blame them if they decide to give the latest idea a good leaving alone.

[This column originally appeared in the February 9, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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