‘Hallelujah,’ the garage debuts
Chuck Saccio on Wednesday was not on one knee outside the new Swede Alley parking garage but it seems that he and other Main Street merchants and restaurateurs are ready to worship the structure.
"Hallelujah," proclaimed Saccio, who owns Hungry Moose Pub & Grill on Main Street with his wife, Patti.
The garage made its debut on the Friday of Presidents Day weekend, one of the busiest three-day stretches during the ski season and the start of what is traditionally a strong month for business.
"I bless it. I bow to it," Saccio said, predicting that business at Hungry Moose could climb between 10 and 15 percent through Easter compared to 2005 because the garage is open.
The merchants and restaurant owners have been anticipating the opening of the garage for two months as delays at the site forced the debut from just before the holidays until mid-February.
They lobbied City Hall to build a garage on Swede Alley for years before the groundbreaking last spring. The Park City Council, responding to the merchants, agreed to earmark the $5.75 million for the structure in the 2004 budget.
Studies prior to construction found that there was a shortage of parking spots during the busiest ski-season months and the number of spots during the summer-tourism season was dwindling.
The garage, located immediately north of the China Bridge structure, holds 305 cars. The city netted 277 parking spots because some surface spots on Swede Alley were built upon during construction. The China Bridge garage holds 343 spots.
Dave Gustafson, who managed the project for City Hall, reported on Wednesday that the new garage reached 90 percent occupancy on Sunday, when the existing China Bridge garage also reached 90 percent occupancy.
"It was a big crowd this weekend, no question," Gustafson said.
He said crews are continuing their work at the new garage, finishing the woodwork on the stairwells, for instance. In the spring, the city plans to seal the concrete, which will require temporary closures, he said.
Gustafson said the crews are also finishing an elevator shaft and he expects they will be done by the end of March. The new garage’s fourth level will not be open until the shaft is complete.
At the end of March, the construction crews will disassemble a crane that has been on Swede Alley during the work, he said.
The Swede Alley parking spots that are inside the construction zone, about 36 spaces, will remain closed until late spring or early summer, Gustafson said. He expects that the parking lot on the south end of the Marsac Building, which has been designated for emergency and city vehicles, will reopen to public parking in late spring.
Both garages have a four-hour limit from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
The city has posted signs designating the new garage ‘N’ and the existing China Bridge structure ‘S,’ a reference to ‘North’ and South.’
Saccio at Hungry Moose said business suffered as the garage was under construction. Once it opened, people showed up, he said.
"It killed Main Street business since the middle of last summer, my observation," Saccio said, adding about the opening, "The first two floors, just like that, three-quarters full."
Downtown parking has perplexed City Hall for more than a decade and the government tried solutions like valet parking, which was abandoned, and a paid-parking system. The Pay and Display parking meters continue to operate on Main Street but they were removed from Swede Alley and the China Bridge garage as a significant concession to Main Street merchants, many having disliked the meters since their installation in 1998.
Julia Jones, the director of Scanlan Windows to the World, a photography gallery on Main Street, said she hopes Main Street workers head to the new garage but continued to have questions about whether they would given the time limits.
She said business at the gallery was down as the garage opened but blamed the drop on last weekend’s snowfall.
"We tend to see more shoppers on sunny days," Jones said.
At Dugins West, a T-shirt shop on Main Street, owner Robert Dugins said sales were flat from previous Presidents Day weekends but, like Jones at the photography gallery, said the weather discouraged people.
He said that people vacationing in Park City did not realize the garage was open.
"I don’t think the word got out to visitors as much as locals," Dugins said.
Dugins hopes that more Parkites will frequent Main Street, long a worry for businesses.
Still, Dugins is happy with the garage. He said Main Street needed more places to park but he is unsure if business will increase. Even so, Main Street is "a more pleasant experience" for visitors.
"Sundance, Presidents Day, Christmas you can come up here at 8 o’clock at night, it was tough (to park)," he said.
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.