Sunday, April 21, 2024

The three parking garages in University Park had nowhere near 42 percent of their spaces free during a weekday afternoon visit.

The developer Forest City, in seeking to rezone an area near Central Square and put up a 246,716-square-foot building at 300 Massachusetts Ave. for the Millennium biotech company, has assured residents and officials there is ample space available for the company’s employees, including those who will be added as the company grows in the site. The company has also said many workers will use the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority red line, which it described as able to absorb more riders even at peak hours; and that its allowed car trips were at only 60 percent of initial University Park zoning and that the Millennium building would raise it to only 70 percent.

Descriptions of a red line with ample space available during peak times have drawn derision from riders, though, and residents of University Park and visitors to the parking garages disagree with the company’s use estimates there as well.

“I don’t know why Forest City says the garages have so much space. I park in one of their garages and they’re full every day. The very top, maybe the seventh level out in the sun, might have some spaces. They’re all full. It’s just not true,” Kathy Watkins, a Forest City tenant on Franklin Street, told the City Council’s ordinance committee July 23. “You go check it out in the middle of the day on a weekday.”


The Franklin Street, Landsdowne and Pilgrim parking facilities were visited in that order Thursday between 2 and 2:45 p.m. Every aisle of every parking garage was walked and looked down on each side, from basement to roof. There were rental car agencies, valet parking, car washes, Zipcars and reserved spacing inside. There were many middle-class cars as well as an abundance of BMWs, Porsches and even the odd Bentley or Audi A7. There were even a surprising number of cars that seemed to be parked illegally, in corners that were not marked as spaces. In the Landsdowne and Pilgrim garages farthest from 300 Massachusetts Ave., there might typically be two or three spaces per row free in each aisle higher up in the structures. (Click on the photo above for a slideshow of the parking structures with locations and times.)

All three Forest City garages, seen in this image in darker blue, were visited Thursday to assess available parking. The proposed building is at top, indicated with red arrows. (Image: Forest City)

Only on the roofs was ample parking to be found. The most available space was at the seven-story Pilgrim structure at Pacific Street and Brookline place, farthest from the potential Millennium building, but cars there were parked up to the shadow line on the ramp from the sixth story. On the other garages there were many cars parked in the 80 degree sunshine.

The Franklin Street garage, the next block over from 300 Massachusetts Ave., was the tightest of all in terms of available space — with perhaps a couple dozen spaces available total midday on a weekday, when employees will need to be onsite — and it seems the most likely place for Millennium workers to park.

Peter Calkins, executive vice president and chief operating officer in Forest City’s local Massachusetts office, was asked Thursday after the visit to explain how the company came by the figures in its parking studies. While he was traveling and couldn’t immediately send hard figures to back up his previous descriptions of the parking availability, he said by phone that the descriptions relied on “short-term [agreements for] spaces we can terminate. There are more spaces than [a visit now] would indicate, because some will go away.”

As to the red line, claims there is space for new riders runs contrary to two studies presented this summer by the Urban Land Institute and Metropolitan Action Planning Council.

“MBTA ridership is at its highest peak since 1946: 1.3 million riders a day,” Renee Loth wrote June 23 in The Boston Globe, summing up data from the studies. “Three of the four main MBTA lines already are operating at or over capacity. Only the Blue Line is exempt, and that’s because the state just spent $600 million expanding platforms and adding cars.”

The City Council has a special meeting on the Forest City proposal scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Councillors’ last chances to tour the parking garages during a weekday are Friday or the Monday before the special meeting.