Parking in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood slow to keep up with demand

PORTLAND — A Walgreens pharmacy is set to open Friday on Marginal Way in Bayside, putting more of squeeze on parking in an area already short on supply.

While the city’s Vision for Bayside, created a decade ago, proposed Bayside as a transit-oriented district with minimal surface parking, it also called for a parking garage. And although the city spent time and money in 2006 designing an approximately 600-space garage on land it owns in Bayside, the plans have yet to come to fruition.

Meanwhile, parking demands are increasing.

The city is still actively seeking the right location and partners for construction of the garage, City Councilor John Anton said, and still has federal funding available to help pay for it.

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who represents Bayside, said he has reservations about providing an overabundance of garage parking, but he admitted that when he has visited the new Trader Joe’s on Marginal Way, parking has been in short supply.

“I think (Walgreens) is going to put pressure on (traffic and parking),” Donoghue said.

Since Trader Joe’s opened last November, the parking situation and even driving along that section of Marginal Way has become challenging. For weeks after the opening, cars could regularly be seen queued at the entrance to the popular grocery store, while others snaked the parking lot waiting for one of the 135 spots to free up.

Next door, Maine Rock Gym and West Marine put up signs telling Trader Joe’s patrons not to park in the few spots those businesses have for customers. People parked on Chestnut and Somerset streets, but a fence between the new Bayside Trail and Trader Joe’s keeps pedestrians and bicyclists from entering the parking lot without having to go around via Chestnut or Preble streets.

The fence between Trader Joe’s parking lot and the trail, Donoghue said, was erected by Fore River Co., which owns the retail property from Preble to Chestnut, and isn’t coming down.

“The landlord opposes opening that up,” Donoghue said.

The area around the new Walgreens has been shut to traffic since last year, when remodeling began on the former Whole Grocer building. Now that Walgreens is ready to open, their parking lot has reopened, as well.

Walgreens District Manager Greg Paramantgis said he is not concerned about overflow parking.

“It seems to me like there is plenty (of parking),” Paramantgis said. He said the in-town location should also attract pedestrian traffic more so than Walgreens’ other locations, and is conveniently located across from the offices of Intermed.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg noted the Vision for Bayside called for that section of the city to be a “concentrated urban area.”

Clegg said the city got a lot of complaints about parking and traffic when Trader Joe’s first opened, but as with other popular store openings, “the novelty wears off.” While the lot is still often busy, the demand has dropped.

Clegg pointed out that there is on-street parking on Chestnut and Somerset Streets, along with several bike racks along the Bayside Trail.

“The planning is intentional,” she said. The commercial area along that section of Marginal Way is zoned B-7. Off-street parking is not required by the city in that zone, Clegg said.

The city’s Community Development Committee is set to meet in a private session to discuss a possible sale of city-owned property in Bayside, but whether that deal would include overdue plans for the parking garage has not been revealed. The city owns several parcels along Somerset Street.

The city had a parking garage development partner in 2008 in MaineHealth, but that deal fell through. A deal in 2007 with Atlantic Redevelopment Co. also fell through.

Donoghue, meanwhile, said pedestrian access improvements are planned for this summer at the intersection of Marginal Way and Chestnut Street. Planet Fitness drives a steady stream of car traffic to the intersection, and Walgreens will probably add to that.

Donoghue said the city does not have plans to install a traffic signal there, but will install a pedestrian signal and curb extensions at the intersection.

Long-term transit plans for Bayside include extending Somerset Street to the west, and reducing the number of travel lanes on Marginal Way. If that happens, Donoghue said, on-street parking could be added.

“We can’t do any of that until Somerset is dealt with, though,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city’s slow-moving plans are not keeping pace with development, as the Vision for Bayside suggested in 2000.

“A new parking garage should be built to coincide with new developments in the neighborhood,” it said, “due to the fact that parking for the existing business entities in the area is already at capacity.”

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @katebucklin.

Sidebar Elements

Signs suggest to customers that parking is at a premium along Marginal Way in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, where a Walgreens pharmacy this week joins the retail mix that already includes West Marine, Trader Joe’s and Eastern Mountain Sports.Walgreens opens Friday at 127 Marginal Way, and is likely to add to traffic and the demand for parking in the neighborhood.

Walgreens opens Friday on Marginal Way

PORTLAND — Walgreens will open its third pharmacy in the city Friday, its first on the peninsula.

The store at 127 Marginal Way has a full-service pharmacy that also will offer “compounding,” district manager Greg Paramantgis said. Compound medications are those made by pharmacists specially for a patient, as directed by a physician.

Paramantgis said the store is more than 10,000 square feet, the same size as the average Walgreens. He said its location, across from the Intermed offices, is convenient for pharmacy customers. Walgreens is also banking on the in-town location to draw pedestrian shoppers.

“It will help us pool from a different group of people,” he said. “It’s nice to support in-town residents a little bit better.” The other locations are on Forest Avenue and on Washington Avenue in North Deering.

In addition to the pharmacy, Walgreens will offer immunizations and has a separate room for clinical services, including blood pressure screenings.

And like the other Portland locations, there will be lobsters for sale.

The Marginal Way Walgreens will be open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. On Friday, customers will receive free reusable shopping bags (while supplies last) and have the opportunity to donate non-perishables to Preble Street. Walgreens will match the donations.

— Kate Bucklin

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