WATERVILLE — A local engineering firm has offered to help develop a funding package to build a municipal parking garage near the Hathaway mill redevelopment project.

The proposal, from Albert Hodsdon, owner of A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers, comes on the heels of a City Council vote rejecting the proposed lease of spaces in a Front Street parking lot to Paul Boghossian, the developer who has been renovating the Hathaway and adjacent industrial buildings in the Lockwood Mills complex on Water Street.

But City Manager Michael Roy questions whether Hodsdon’s idea to use public funding could work if Boghossian wants a privately-owned garage, even though the developer says he has always envisioned a public garage near the mill.

In an April 24 letter to Roy, Hodsdon said the parking issue is not about “winners and losers.”

“It is all about doing the right thing for the long term and not a Band-Aid approach for temporary satisfaction,” Hodsdon said.

Hodsdon suggested that the city could apply for a Community Development Block Grant to help finance parking lot construction, adding that interest rates “are the lowest they have been in over 50 years.”

He also suggested the city could use revenue generated through the tax increment financing district that covers the Hathaway complex to pay for a parking lot.

In an interview Monday, Hodsdon said he envisioned a two- or three-story parking garage in a current municipal lot on Water Street across the street from the Hathaway complex.

The lot has more than 100 spaces, and people who live and work at the Hathway building already park their cars there. The building also has more than 100 spaces in an adjacent lot.

Earlier this month, Boghossian asked the City Council to lease him another 50 spaces in a 60-space municipal lot on Front Street.

At a council meeting last week, Boghossian said that he needs to prove he has enough parking spaces to convince lenders of the financial viability of the project.

City councilors considered Roy’s recommendation that the city lease 30 spaces to Boghossian, but the move was opposed by several local business and property owners who use the Front Street lot, including Hodsdon, and the council voted to reject Boghossian’s request.

On Tuesday, Hodsdon said he wanted to make sure it was understood that he supports Boghossian’s efforts.

“We realize he needs this,” Hodsdon said of Boghossian. “We’ll do our part to help him get what he needs without divvying up what we already have.”

Hodsdon said he is willing to volunteer his services to the town to work on funding proposals and come up with cost estimates, but the hard engineering would need to be done by a specialized firm.

While saying he appreciates Hodsdon’s support, Roy was skeptical that his financing proposals would pan out.

In an interview Monday, Roy said the CDBG program might not be an appropriate way to fund a parking garage, since he believes that Boghossian wants to keep the garage private.

“While it sounds good on paper, when it gets down to the details, the only way to do this is with private funds,” Roy said.

Maintaining a private lot could also complicate using TIF money on a private garage, he said. Boghossian has a 99-year lease on the Water Street parking lot, which has a deed restriction preventing the city from selling the land, Roy said.

The city currently has no active effort concentrating on construction of a parking garage, but Roy said the city will continue to work with Boghossian to come up with solutions to his parking issue.

On Monday, Boghossian said he hadn’t seen Hodsdon’s letter, but said a public parking garage on Water Street has been part of his plans from the beginning of the redevelopment effort.

“That has been the goal right from the get-go,” Boghossian said.

His plans include converting one of the buildings in the complex into a hotel and conference center, and as the area becomes more aesthetic and pedestrian friendly, a new garage could serve as a parking center for all of lower Main Street, he said.

“I always envisioned it as a public garage,” Boghossian said.

The Hathaway building has been redeveloped into apartments and office space. Boghossian intends to develop the Central Maine Power Co. building on the north side of the complex this year and then start on the Marden’s industrial building. When the redevelopment is complete, more parking than is currently available will be needed, so it is good to begin thinking about the issue, he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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