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More Parking on Tap at University Crossing

Salem Street Lot Expansion Project to Add 57 Spaces

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The Salem Street lot will expand to 141 parking spaces, while a new entrance will be added for faculty and staff coming from Fletcher Street.

By Ed Brennen

Parking at University Crossing is about to become much more plentiful — and a lot more green.

Expansion of the Salem Street lot, the primary visitor parking lot for those doing business at University Crossing, is underway and expected to be completed by late August.

When finished, the Salem Street lot will have 141 parking spaces, 57 more than the previous configuration. The lot will also gain some curb appeal with the addition of two dozen new trees and a widened “buffer” area of landscaping along Pawtucket and Salem streets.

“This project has allowed us to not only increase parking in a high-profile area,” says Facilities Management Project Manager Dirk van Luling, “but also to add several landscaped areas to really beautify the sheets of asphalt.”

When combined with the Pawtucket Street meter lot’s 51 short-term parking spaces, the Fletcher Street lot’s 184 staff spaces and the Merrimack Street lot’s 14 handicap spaces, there will be 390 total parking spaces for University Crossing — an increase of 107 since fall 2014.

“With this expansion we’re going to be in great shape,” says Director of Administrative and Office Services Thomas Miliano, who notes that the meter lot has been “wildly popular” since opening in January. “Most of the day-to-day activity taking place in the building will be accommodated in some fashion by these lots.”
Just a phase

The project, which was made possible by the university’s purchase of properties on Dane and Fletcher streets, is divided into two phases. Phase 1, which is  underway, involves creating a new section of parking on the purchased property. On July 24, the existing Salem Street lot parking spaces are scheduled to be temporarily re-located to the new spots, which will allow for Phase 2 to begin — the beautification of the original parking area.

The current entrance to the Salem Street lot will be closed during Phase 2 of the project, temporarily replaced by a new entrance off of Dane Street. “University Crossing visitors and staff entering the lot will be coming down Fletcher Street to Dane Street for the time being,” van Luling says.

Once the project is complete, the primary visitor’s entrance will return to Salem Street while faculty and staff with card access may use the new Dane Street entrance. Additionally, a second exit will be added to the Fletcher Street lot, giving staff the option to leave as before toward Salem Street or now more directly to Fletcher Street.

The project also calls for widened pedestrian crosswalks with flashing signals at two locations on Salem Street — one from the Salem Street parking lot entrance and another from the bus loop. The city of Lowell has also installed brighter streetlights along Salem Street.

Road work ahead

The parking lot expansion coincides with the city of Lowell’s sewer separation project taking place in the Acre neighborhood this summer. The federally mandated project will create a separate storm drainage system running parallel to the existing sewer line, thereby diverting rainwater from the city’s overwhelmed sewage treatment plant.

It will also create some short-term traffic changes and road closures in the area from late July into August — disruptions that are scheduled to be complete well before the fall semester begins.

“It’s all very well coordinated,” van Luling says. “We’ve been working closely with the building leadership, including orientation and admissions groups, throughout the spring to make sure their needs are accommodated. We also meet with the city’s project team daily to assure timely sharing of information. Communication is key.
“But one of nice aspects of city’s sewer separation project is that they are going to rebuild the entire length of Dane Street,” van Luling adds. “The street will be re-graded and completely repaved and new sidewalks will be installed. Aesthetically, it really is going to be much nicer for our visitors and staff.”
Miliano and van Luling credited the work of Adam Baacke, director of campus planning and development, for making the project possible through the timely acquisition of properties adjacent to University Crossing, advocating for the “cityscape” landscape concept and working closely with city officials to assure proposed pedestrian safety and vehicular traffic enhancements were implemented.