Newburyport opened its first parking garage, allowing for expansion of a waterfront park and easing downtown traffic. The project creates a transportation node consisting of Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) bus pick-up and drop-off, commuter parking, and public parking for workers and patrons of the downtown area. The multi-level structured parking garage contains a retail component and bus lobby on the ground floor.
Building a downtown parking garage had been considered without success for two decades, blocked by funding constraints and disagreements over location. In 2016 the city secured a $5 million state grant for the plan, and the following year it purchased the downtown lot. The cost of design and construction was funded through the state and federal grants, and monies derived from parking revenues.
The new 2½-story Titcomb Street Parking Garage with 207 parking spaces allowed the city to eliminate spaces in two unimproved parking lots owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority. That in turn will allow the city to eventually increase the size of the adjacent waterfront park. The project also provides the first permanent place in downtown Newburyport for buses to pick up and discharge passengers.
Newburyport’s historic downtown waterfront
Many efforts were made to keep the facility in character with the historic seaside town’s architectural style. The design team worked with community members to translate their desires into reality. Amazing detail was put into the colors, brick layout and design, and the window-like openings to provide air flow.
The rigorous design process involved town meetings and historic board meetings, to discuss how to blend the new building into the historic nature of Newburyport as well as to determine the best possible site. After much debate the Titcomb Street location was selected and required the demolition of an existing building to make room for the garage, explains Agnes Jacob, Associate, Fennick McCredie Architecture.
“At first we considered a contemporary approach to distinguish the new garage from the old town. But they didn’t want to go that route—they were very particular about keeping in character with town. Ultimately we used thin brick precast panels to keep with the nature of streetscape and we found a match that worked with the neighboring brick buildings”, recalls Jacob.
Dailey Precast recommended their thin brick preference and achieved as close as match as possible. In addition to emulating brick, “we included a cornice piece to add visual interest, which can come apart if they decide to expand later”, describes Jacob. There is a provision for future expansion to add another level. The end result is small structure on tight site.
There were multiple studies before the project started as to the best location for the garage. As things progressed the project meandered through the planning and review process with the city and council and stakeholders and neighbors it started to take shape. That dictated the site. “It was a challenging site because not only was it a small footprint, there was a grade change and it was very close to the property line. The site line was critical too because neighbors had a view of the waterfront”, explains Wesley J. Wilson, PE, SE, Senior Project Manager, Desman Design Management
It is not a standard garage design at all, but features a precast curtain wall affect. One of the elevations came about because of the demand to simulate a Colonial appearance. They didn’t want the typical spandrel garage layout. The brick and the structural framing emulate an historic façade, says Wilson.
Because of the framing, it was a critical part of the project to balance the architectural exterior façade expression with the openness criteria. The State of Massachusetts was more stringent than the rest of the country but recently adopted the IBC code so we had to pay careful attention to the size of the openings and meet the requirement for air flow, describes Wilson.
Collaboration continued through the precast design process. Dailey Precast was helpful and willing to work with the design team to make sure the project had a successful outcome. The precast was installed inside the footprint and worked their way out. The last phase the crane sat on the street to erect the precast structure.
This is a parking garage that doesn’t look like one. It required sensitive architectural detailing for compatibility with historic downtown Newburyport . It is a multi-modal facility designed for the 21st century; it incorporates bike, auto, and bus transportation modes.