One day Bruce Becker would like to see more bikes than cars parked at his green-oriented 360 State Street apartment tower. One day, he hopes, he even might turn the north side of the fifth level of his new garage into a tennis court.
Meanwhile, he’s opening a new garage with high-tech extras aimed at saving energy and encouraging drivers to pedal their way or take the train to work.
For now,few people even know about the garage has opened to the public. Few know about its nifty features, like digital signage telling you how many spaces are open and on which of the five levels.
On Wednesday Becker plans to correct that when the garage “officially” opens to the public. By way of promotions, the 500-car garage will be absolutely free to all parkers in the last week of January.
The new 500-apartment 360 State complex is the current poster building in Connecticut for transit-oriented development, the idea of building compact, mixed-use projects near trains and buses. But some people still drive and need to park their cars; hence the garage. In the interest of promoting alternatives to driving, Becker is offering a full month’s free parking at his new garage for possessors of a monthly Metro North commuter ticket .
You also get a month free if you sign up for the Elm City Market, the food co-op scheduled to open on the tower’s ground floor this summer.
After that, you pay $159 a month – not for a designated spot but any slot that’s free; or you can use the garage on a daily basis.
Plastic For Parking Only, Please
Oh, and it’s credit card only for every transaction.
During a Becker-guided tour of the relatively empty green garage Friday, Paul Corriveau pulled up to one of the check-out kiosks.
Corriveau (pictured) got out of his scarlet colored Toyota, read the digital message, and declared, “I don’t have a credit card. How the hell do I get out of this place!”
Becker introduced himself . Because the young West Havener was having an exceptionally bad day, having spent four hours at court filing for Chapter Seven bankruptcy, 360 State Street’s top guy gave him a free voucher to insert into the slot instead of a card.
According to Bob Fleece (pictured with Becker) of LAZ Parking, which manages the garage, there are only perhaps two incidents a week like Corriveau’s, in which case an attendant, reachable through the intercom, comes to the rescue and takes cash.
With only two such instances a week, does it make sense to have a salaried person in a booth accepting stealable bills? Becker asked rhetorically.
Becker was asked whether, even with all the “green” amenities and efforts to steer people to public transit, adding so many new parking spaces to downtown in fact promotes more car travel. His response:Ultimately he’d like to see all the residents being without a car, and the garage used by daily transient parkers as ended. Meanwhile, the complex wouldn’t be able o bring in a (needed) downtown grocery without parking attached.
Becker said that ultimately the garage’s priorities serve two groups: Monthly parkers and those who will be shopping at the soon-to-arrive Elm City Market.
Monthly parkers get an electronically read decal on their windshield which automatically opens the gate. “It’s similar to EZ Pass,” Becker said.
Elm City Market users will have free parking and validation. Whether you have to be buy a certain amount at the market and whether there will be a time limit, those details are to be worked out, Becker said.
The double-sized elevator at the western end of the garage (in the back of this photo) will rise directly up from the street-level market and should hold two shopping carts and about a dozen people, Becker estimated.
Thus far with 180 leases signed at 360 State, Fleece reported to Becker that 145 residents have signed up as monthly parkers. (For them it’s $100 a month; it’s $159 for outsiders.)
Since 15 of the 145 are two-car families ,that means the building has already attracted 50 people without vehicles.
“Fifty people living downtown who determine to have no car,” Becker said, with evident pleasure.
In addition to a bicycle storage room, which appropriately is behind Devil’s Gear Bike Shop on the Pitkin Plaza side of 360 State, the complex’s ground level has room for 100 bikes. An outside corridor extending off it has room for 100 more. This space also houses a pedicab or two, which ultimately will be delivering groceries for the market, Becker suggested.
There are two Zipcars in residence as well.
For those who do the deed of driving, Becker said he is proud of the garage’s features, including the neon lights on the perimeter of each level. They automatically go off through a sensoring and motion system that saves 60 to 75 percent of what would be spent for electric energy.
That and all the other systems get their juice through the building’s pioneering fuel cell, which will also provide free electrical charges at up to six charging stations, yet to be installed.
“There’s a lot of technology here,” Becker declared.
Signs Save Gas
He pointed to the digital display telling you how many spots are available on each level. The number of slots available is also readable on displays on the ramps ascending the levels.
So that if level four is filled, no need to go exploring; you stay on the ramp to the next level where there’s a spot.
“Think of all the gas we’ll save,” Becker said.
He argued that an additional value of that feature is if you’re rushing to make a train at the State Street train station, those minutes you save might make all the difference.
After he gave Paul Corriveau his free voucher (Corricvau had parked at 360 State previously with a credit card, and termed it excellent), Becker also took in the new traffic signal on State Street and the median cut below.
The additional light on State between Court and Chapel now allows a left turn going north on State into the garage.
“That’s a million dollars,” he said. The investment includes a video sensing device that tells the left turn arrow to go on if it sees a car approach.
Think of the hundreds of people who will now not have to drive an extra half mile around to come down State and access the garage from the north, Becker said.
More gas saved.
Metro-North increased the number trains starting out toward Grand Central from the little station across State Street from the complex to two an hour during rush hour, in part due to a campaign waged by Becker. However, the printed schedule has not caught up with that available online.
He thinks word about that needs to get out better for his garage to do what it’s intended for.
“It’s better for merchants” if while waiting for the train, people park and then they can buy coffee and a paper [in the 360 State Street neighborhood],” he said. “There’s not much down by [Union] station.”
“Every time I go to a Town Green Special Service District meeting, I hear there is no parking in New Haven,” Becker said. “And, look, this garage is mostly empty.”
When word does get out, will other customers push out the priority parkers, the shoppers and monthlies?
”While anyone who wants to park here can, if we’re overwhelmed, we’ll adjust our rate structure. We may raise the rate $5, and there will be fewer [daily] parkers. Market will drive demand,” Becker said.
As to tennis with a view, it just happens that the dimensions of the fifth level of the parking garage on the north are 120 feet by 60 feet, that of a tennis court, Becker said.