Opinion: Parking problems threaten business in Middlebury
Full disclosure first: I don’t live in Middlebury but you might think so from the amount of time and money I spend there. I live across the lake in New York but the majority of everything from shopping to medical care is done in Vermont, and most of that in Middlebury.
And I’m not alone — it’s unusual for me not to meet another New Yorker on my trips. I mourn the loss of Greg’s Market as much as anyone. And yes, we feel like we do have a horse in this race: the question of any development behind the Ilsley Library.
I thought I’d popped into an alternate reality when I read the article about Nexbridge’s RFP for the development of that area, particularly the line about “transforming an underutilized and unsightly parking lot.” Unsightly, well, who cares? It’s a parking lot — most folks don’t spend a lot of time there. Underutilized? Seriously? As I walk to my car after volunteering at the Ilsley, there’s always someone who notices me and trails me to my parking spot, ready to pounce like an osprey on a tasty fish. For health’s sake and out of respect for those less able, I park behind Mister Up’s — the furthest reaches of available parking space, and always full, even there.
My friends at the Ilsley have been amused over the past few years at the lengths I’ve gone to in order to get to Middlebury: your bridge project, the somewhat more inconvenient Champlain Bridge project, floods and road closures due to construction. (During the Cross Street Bridge project, people would come into the library joking about having to park in Cornwall.)
A lot of folks who come from the wilds of New York to spend money in town are not as stubborn as I am. I suspect loss of any more parking spots behind the Ilsley just might be the tipping point. Combine that with the disruption from the proposed railway tunnel construction (and loss of those parking spaces) and you don’t need an MBA to foresee a disaster for downtown merchants. You’ll lose the business of Middlebury residents and the outsiders.