The Day – Added parking to serve downtown Mystic
Mystic — With two weeks to go before the summer tourist season, the Mystic Seaport Museum and Chelsea Groton Bank plan to offer a total of 224 parking spaces for visitors to the city center.
Finding parking downtown has become an increasingly difficult challenge as the Town of Groton recently approved the opening or expansion of half a dozen restaurants that do not have their own reserved parking.
So far, there have only been two recent efforts to add parking, both by the town of Stonington, where tourists often seek parking along neighborhood streets. The city has added 13 spaces along Cottrell Street making it one-way and also plans to create 30 to 40 spaces at the Fourth District Voting Hall on Broadway. This batch won’t be ready until late summer or fall. Groton and Stonington officials are also working to create on-street paid parking downtown.
This week, Mystic Seaport announced it will put 200 berths in its south lot off Route 27 for non-museum visitors who can take a 14-person shuttle to downtown, while Chelsea Groton Bank will put 24 berths available in both sets. Both parking operations will be managed by LAZ Parking, which manages car parks in cities across the country. Payment will be digital through an app.
“The Seaport have really stepped up to help keep the cars out of the town centre. They’ve been great to partner with,” Stonington first coach Danielle Chesebrough said Thursday.
Shannon McKenzie, vice president of operations at the Seaport Museum, said space became available in the south lot when lumber no longer needed to be stored there.
“We have the space and the opportunity to do this. It will truly be a testing year as we work with the City of Stonington to alleviate the downtown parking shortage,” she said Thursday. .
It will cost you $10 a day to park in the seaport parking lot and then take the shuttle to a drop-off location on Holmes Street, just south of Lis Bakery. Service is expected to begin Memorial Day weekend. Visitors and museum members will still be able to park for free in the North Lot and the other half of the South Lot.
“It’s not a great money-making opportunity for us,” McKenzie said. “It’s about being a community partner.”
She said parking visitors in a shuttle lot, as they do in other tourist communities, will free up downtown parking for residents and employees.
The shuttle will initially run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but McKenzie said schedules could be adjusted based on demand, such as extending hours later in the day if people are having dinner.
McKenzie said the museum would also continue to explore the possibility of running a water taxi to downtown, but needed to find a dock to offload passengers.
Lori Dufficy, executive vice president and director of experience and engagement at Chelsea Groton Bank, said the bank recently signed a contract with LAZ Parking to manage its upper and lower lots at 2 Water St. During the bank hours, lots will be reserved for bank customers; when the bank is closed, visitors to downtown businesses will be able to park in the parking lots using LAZ Text-to-Park technology, a cashless system that uses text messaging. Fees are yet to be determined. Parking should be available in about a week.
Dufficy said the bank providing parking is a way to be community-minded and support local merchants. She added that the additional parking will help attract more visitors, who will be able to find more parking spaces.
She said the bank will donate all proceeds from parking fees to the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, which will be used with the Mystic Downtown Merchants Association to help fund events and initiatives.
“It’s not our place to make money,” she said.