Maine Medical Center is building an employee parking garage off St. John Street, which will allow the hospital to build an addition at the corner of Gilman and Congress streets, where employees now park. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Residents and building owners on the southern end of St. John Street are bracing for the impact of a nine-story parking garage Maine Medical Center is building just south of Union Station Plaza Shopping Center.

Residents in the 100 and 200 block of St. John Street are upset turn lanes for a new parking garage being constructed by Maine Medical Center will take the place of 13 parking space they have relied on for easy access to their residences Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The neighbors fear the project will disrupt their ability to park near their buildings.

To make way for the turn lanes and other traffic flow improvements for the parking garage, 13 spaces of on-street parking on St. John Street will be lost.

Chris Bartlett, who owns three properties near the parking garage site at 169, 171 and 173 St. John St., said residents in the area will have to park on nearby Valley Street, an area he said is frequented by “less than desirable” individuals.

“My tenants need to be able to safely access their homes at all hours of the day,” Bartlett said at an Aug. 12 council meeting.

Forcing those who now park on St. John to park on Valley Street will make it difficult for those who are lugging groceries, laundry, children and other items to and from their residences at all hours of the day and night, said Tim McNamera, a resident of 251 Valley St.

Alan Prosser, a business owner and landlord on St. John Street, urged the council “to leave intact what we here so desperately need  – parking adjacent to our homes and businesses.”

Amy Rayner, who also lives on St. John Street, said shifting the area where people park will not just make it difficult for residents to bring items back and forth, but also for contractors doing work in the area.

“We are not here because we feel entitled to parking, but because we believe the needs of the community, both business and residents, were not properly being considered when this plan was approved,” she said.

Matthew Wickenheiser, senior manager of communications and public affairs for Maine Medical Center, said the road construction plan associated with new the garage was approved by the Planning Board and “developed in partnership with the city based on a significant amount of traffic analysis.”

“We are working to that approved plan, and have suggested and are willing to support program changes, such as a residential parking program for the area,” he said. “Any future plans regarding street parking would be a discussion between the neighbors and the city.”

City Communications Director Jessica Grondin said several city departments, including planning, public works and parking, are working to address resident concerns.

“Traffic engineers are exploring ways to limit the number of on-street parking spaces lost,” she said earlier this month.

Wickenheiser said the hope is to have the garage operational by next year.

“We plan to occupy the garage in two phases, with the first phase in early 2020 and the second coming in early spring,” he said.

The new six-story Maine Medical Center office building will add more patient and procedure rooms. Courtesy Maine Medical Center

He said the garage, part of a $534 million hospital expansion, will “allow us to consolidate parking from the Gilman garage and several other locations around Portland.”

Maine Medical officials have said the project is necessary to update and modernize the hospital, which dates back to 1868. Aside from relocating employee parking, the project includes a new medical building on the site of the existing employee garage on the corner of Congress and Gilman streets, as well as adding 225 new visitor parking spaces and an addition to the hospital’s east tower along with a new helicopter pad. The project, once completed, will add 128 new patient rooms, 19 new procedure rooms and shift the hospital’s main entrance from Bramhall Street to Congress Street.

Half of the project’s cost will be paid for through reserves and donations.  Last month, the hospital received $10.5 million in donation for the cause. Paul and Giselaine Coulombe of Boothbay Harbor and their daughter, Michelle Coulombe-Hagerty, donated $7.5 million to Maine Med and Linda Bean and her sister Diana Bean donated $3 million.

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