Remember the parking garage

Jun 29, 2020 by

Published in the June 29, 2020 edition.

As the same group of residents tries to wipe out $9.6 million in Town Meeting-approved, much-needed renovations to the Public Safety Building, it’s time to quickly revisit another project they helped defeat, one that in our opinion certainly would have come in handy today.

With concrete jersey barriers ‘gracing’ parts of our beautiful, classic New England downtown so outdoor dining can happen in the street in these dire pandemic times, an unobtrusive parking garage between the Wakefield Co-operative Bank and Jeffrey’s Liquors  sure could have helped all local merchants as they struggle to stay in business.

Last week we learned that a group was circulating a petition calling for Public Safety Building renovations to be considered at a town-wide election. They said, in part, that not enough people had attended the Town Meeting held Saturday, June 20, for the approval of the Public Safey Building project to count for anything.

This move comes six years after the group — opposed to much that Town Meeting and the town in general do — worked to get 200 signatures on a petition in order to call for a reconsideration of a  a downtown parking garage. The project to create more parking for businesses and their customers was a two story garage with 198 spaces to be built by Shelter Development, the construction arm of the company that owns Brightview Senior Living. Shelter would have covered the cost of the $5 million garage. The company also would have funded a new $250,000 drain line, a new $500,000 sewer line and various downtown upgrades to gas and electrical service. The town would have realized a net gain of over $1.5 million over the first 20 years of the parking garage’s use.

The project overwhelmingly passed at a February 6, 2014 Special Town Meeting, 148-36, in a vote that required two-thirds majority approval.

After that, opponents of the garage took to the pages of this paper and to social media to talk about how bad the project was for everyone. One of them told us privately that the drawings shown over and over again in public meetings were fake; the garage would tower over the downtown, six, seven, eight stories high. The downtown, another said, was not the place for a downtown parking garage. Still another questioned how the parking garage wasn’t going to cost the town millions of dollars in the long run. 

The parking garage failed in a town-wide vote, thanks partly to this type of negative, falsehood-driven campaign.

As opponents fight against the recently-approved Public Safety Building improvements in 2020, we urge everyone to do their homework by going to the town’s website to pore over the extensive details of the plan.

Don’t fall for the misleading statements that are certain to come. You will end up regretting it if you do.

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