Last week, the city secured the final piece of land necessary to move forward and consider plans to build a parking garage behind The Galleria on Main Street, and while some motorists and business owners support the project, others are worried a garage would alter the look of downtown.
“[The lot] gets filled up so fast,” said University of Delaware senior Emily Schmidt. “I know I’ve had several times my friends and I have tried to park here and there’s no spots.
“I don’t think it’d block anyone’s views because there’s not much to see here anyways,” she added.
Some Kildare’s employees and Brew Ha Ha! staff, however, say they feel otherwise.
“That would block all the views on our back patio,” said Kildare’s hostess Sierra Pinkett. “No one wants to stare at a parking garage.”
“It’s going to be a big gaudy building,” she added. “That’s why us and Brew Ha Ha! have back patios, because of the views.”
Last week, council voted 5 to 2 to approve a land swap that gives the city ownership of a 13,000-square-foot portion of the parking lot behind the Galleria, including the exit and both entrances. The city currently leases the property from Exponential Development Group for use as part of its pay-to-park municipal lot.
In exchange, EDG will receive the city’s Lot 6, a 0.36-acre city-owned parcel located behind the University of Delaware Bookstore on Delaware Avenue that contains 33 metered parking spaces.
The swap paves the way for a potential parking garage by securing the final piece of land needed for the project, which has been discussed intermittently since 1998.
Planning Director Maureen Feeney Roser said last week she was “thrilled” about the land swap and would like to see a garage built within two years, although such a plan would require another vote by council.
Ricky Nietubicz, Downtown Newark Partnership administrator, said a parking garage would help expand the potential customer base for downtown shops and restaurants.
“The business community overwhelmingly seems to support it,” he said.
Brew Ha Ha! assistant manager and longtime Newark resident Dan Malusa said he disagrees.
He said he knows downtown parking is a problem, but doesn’t want a garage directly behind the coffee shop.
“I’m really worried about it blocking the view,” he said. “I just don’t want to look at a brick wall.”
Grotto Pizza assistant manager Alex Nichols, on the other hand, said he thinks the garage would help alleviate the strain parking puts on those looking to grab food or a drink at the Main Street bar and restaurant.
“It should be better for our customers and the employees that work in this shopping center and the area,” he said.
Charlene Bottjer of Elkton, Md., was eating a slice of pizza at Grotto’s on Tuesday but said she hardly makes the trip to downtown Newark because of the traffic, congestion and limited parking.
“I guess [a garage] would help,” she said. “You don’t see a lot of them around.”
Eduardo Cardenas, owner of Newark Deli and Bagel, which sits across the street from The Galleria, said Main Street businesses suffer when potential customers avoid the busy downtown area.
“They don’t come to Main Street because they can’t park,” he said. “It’s time for Newark to grow. It’s time for Newark to have some more parking.”
Jeff Chase, senior art director in UD’s Office of Communications and Marketing, was enjoying lunch at Peace-A-Pizza on Tuesday and said he would support garage behind The Galleria because of the proximity to campus.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the students made use of that to park for class because the city’s parking is so affordable,” he said.
Chase said a parking garage would create high-density parking and maximize the number of spaces per square-footage of the lot.
“I think it’s smart,” he said.