Hanover parking woes increase with temporary closure of part of parking garage

  • Parking attendant Mark Greenan turns away a driver from the Lebanon Street Parking Garage in Hanover, N.H., as garage supervisor Chris McEwen stands at right Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. The facility is in its second week of renovations, with the top two decks and part of a third closed. Only permit holders can use the remaining spaces. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Jeff Terrasi, left, and Joe Bianchi, of Cheshire, Conn.-based Structural Preservation Systems, work on removing caulk between concrete slabs of decking on the Lebanon Street Parking Garage in Hanover, N.H., Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. The Town expects the repair work and replacement of the gate and access system to be complete before Thanksgiving. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Parking attendant Mark Greenan admits a driver with a downtown employee parking permit to the Lebanon Street Parking Garage in Hanover, N.H., Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. Those holding the permits pay $6 per day, only when in use, and spaces available for these permits fluctuate on a daily basis depending on where renovation work is occurring on upper levels, said Hanover Police Sgt. Jeffrey Ballard. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2019 9:58:31 PM
Modified: 10/29/2019 9:58:22 PM

HANOVER — Jennifer Filiault was working at a downtown Hanover restaurant last week when she got a frantic text from her coworker.

“The parking garage is closed!” Filiault recalled her friend texting. “I’m just circling.”

In many towns, the temporary closing of part of a central parking garage might not be worth the troubled text, but in Hanover, where parking has long been tight, it’s creating problems for residents, commuters and businesses.

The 290-space garage, located between Lebanon and South streets, is one of the few spots in Hanover that offers all-day parking for the public. But since earlier this year, the 20-year-old, town-owned structure has started deteriorating, with pieces of concrete falling off the ceilings.

“It became a public safety hazard,” Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said Monday.

Town officials spoke with management consultants and decided to close the top two decks and part of a third in the five-level garage for repairs. The $525,000 project started last week and will continue through Thanksgiving.

The remaining floors, which primarily contain private, permit parking as well as 25 public spaces are still open.

Workers are replacing some of the deteriorating concrete on the top two floors, as well as shoring up some of the rebar supports. The top floors, which are both exposed to the outdoors, are getting new protective plastic coatings to prevent further damage. Parts of the garage will be worked on through the year, and workers will start a second, final renovation project in the spring, Griffin said.

“We’re really focused on trying to get work done before the shopping season begins,” Griffin said, adding that the town has been fielding calls from concerned residents.

For Griffin and several employees who work in the area, the closing underscores a larger problem within the town: a lack of easily accessible parking. It’s a problem that’s gotten so bad, Griffin said, the town may need to consider building a new parking garage when the renovations are complete next year.

“It makes people late for work,” Filiault said of the fraught parking situation, adding that there have been multiple times when she’s driven in circles unable to find a place to stop. When she does, she has to leave work to move her car three hours later or run the risk of a ticket.

“Parking is pretty bad as it is,” said Cameron Stevens who works in town. On Monday morning, Stevens found a parking space for the day and was about to take an Advance Transit bus to run an errand, saying that he didn’t want to have to search for a spot later. It’s even worse for people who start their jobs later in the day, when parking is tighter, he said.

“If people know they’re going to miss morning parking, they don’t know if they’ll find parking in the afternoon,” Stevens said.

Griffin said the problem has increased over the past few years, and the temporary loss of garage spaces just creates the “perfect storm,” she said.

Griffin points to several factors that have made parking more difficult. She said there’s an increase of subcontractors who are working on construction projects in the town and for Dartmouth College and need to be close to their vehicles. Additionally, as Dartmouth has expanded its offices in Hanover over the past few years, more college employees are choosing to park in the town rather than in college lots.

“If we could just get Dartmouth employees to park on campus, it would free up about 200 spots,” Griffin said.

She said the college’s plan to open a 340-space parking garage as part of its $200 million expansion project on the west end of campus may ease some parking issues. She hopes the college will consider expanding a shuttle service to bring employees from campus to town or that college officials will consider building another parking garage on property Dartmouth owns.

Dartmouth officials say that they work with the town to try to reduce the parking burden. The college has added new parking spaces to several lots it has on the outskirts of town, such as the Dewey Lot off Lyme Road and the Channing Cox Lot to the west of campus, as well as opening up the Lewiston Lot just over the river in Vermont, according to Associate Vice President of Business and Hospitality David Newlove. After the parking garage is finished in 2021, the college will have added over 500 new parking spaces since December 2018, he said.

Still, Newlove recognizes that it’s “human nature to want to park close to where you work.”

To encourage employees to use Dartmouth lots, the college has several shuttles running from parking lots to the town, and they may look at expanding that service, Newlove said. He pointed to the shuttle that runs to and from the Dewey Lot just north of campus in particular, saying that the college is seriously considering having the shuttle run every 15 minutes rather than every 30. Though, he added, the college will need to collaborate with the town on funding and planning.

Hanover may need to make some changes, too, Griffin said. Officials raised parking rates and fines in the spring to encourage residents and workers to park on the outskirts of town and free up in-town parking for visitors. Next year, Griffin said, town officials might need to start discussing the possibility of building another garage on the lot behind Bank of America or adding some levels to the one that’s currently under construction.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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