Slow Start For Downtown Paid Parking Experiment

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Parking

Valets are standing by at 365 Main St., the former Eldredge Garage property, where a paid parking lot is operating this summer. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM If they’d rather not shark around for an available free parking space, visitors to downtown Chatham have a new option: the lot at 365 Main St., the former Eldredge Garage property. Under a newly signed contract, Chatham Valet, Inc., is operating the site as a paid parking lot, sharing the revenue with the town.

While Chatham property owners can park for free, all others pay $15 per day for all-day parking from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. After 5 p.m., the rate drops to $8, and no overnight parking is allowed.

Late this week, Chatham Valet proprietors Richard Kendall and Miladin Terziyski expect delivery of a miniature shuttle vehicle – like an over-sized golf cart – that will bring customers to the beach or to the west end of downtown. The street-legal vehicle can carry six people, and the shuttle service will be free for those who use the lot, Terziyski said.

On the advice of the Eldredge Garage Property Planning Committee, town officials are using the lot as a pilot project this summer to judge interest in paid parking downtown. The committee will make its recommendation for the long-term use of the town-owned parcel sometime this fall.

Under a contract approved by selectmen, Chatham Valet will pay the town a base fee of $3,000 per month in July and August, and $1,000 for the month of September. The town will also receive a portion of the fee charged for each vehicle.

To take advantage of free parking at the lot, residents and property owners must have a valid town-issued sticker on their vehicle, either for the beach or transfer station. Residents can also obtain a $5 recycling sticker and use that as proof of residency. Parking is on a first-come, first-served basis, but as of early this week, the lot remained largely empty.

“That’s OK” Terziyski said. It will take time to build awareness about the lot, and additional signs will help, he said. The shuttle vehicle will also have a sign advertising the business.

“It will say, ‘If you have no place to park, just follow us,’” Terziyski said.

The business was one of three to reply to the town’s request for proposals to operate the lot, Community Development Director Katie Donovan said. All three companies had similar amounts of experience, but Chatham Valet offered the most advantageous terms for the town.

Before opening the lot, town officials installed better drainage for stormwater and a split-rail fence with a chain to secure the entryway. As of July 2, before the contract with Chatham Valet was issued, eager downtown visitors had taken down the chain and started using the lot on their own. In considering the bids at their July 2 meeting, selectmen wondered whether Chatham Valet would be ready to start as early as July 4.

“We paid $2.5 million for this piece of property,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said. “If they’re ready to go and they’re bonded, they have liability insurance and whatever they need to have, I say it’s a go,” he said.

The contract was awarded, and the lot was operational by July 4, though few cars were parked there. Cloudy, rainy weather on Friday saw a larger crowd, but usage since then has remained low.

Terziyski said he’s not worried about the lot being profitable at this stage.

“The profit really doesn’t matter for this year,” he said. The company’s immediate goal is to establish itself and to build a good relationship with neighbors, Terziyski said. Earlier this week, parking attendants repaired a neighbor’s fence in a gesture of goodwill, he said.

“We want to be part of the community,” he said. “If you do the right thing, the money always comes.”

Both Terziyski and Kendall are Cape residents with ties to Chatham, and together they have 25 years of combined experience in hospitality and valet management activities. In addition to themselves, the company has seven employees.

The shuttle vehicle is certain to attract attention downtown, Terziyski said. It is outfitted with disc brakes, seat belts and other safety equipment, and can travel up to 25 mph. Because it has no doors, loading and unloading passengers will be quick and safe, and will not disrupt traffic, he said. Customers who have parked at 365 Main St. can call the shuttle vehicle at 508-241-5898 from the beach or from other locations on Main Street to arrange a return trip to the lot. The vehicle is expected to be delivered Friday, and should be in service shortly thereafter.

Email Alan Pollock at alan