EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 24, 2013

Parking problems: A nearly broke city and a struggling developer team up to rehab an aging garage

LAWRENCE — A dank and leaky city parking garage would get an upgrade costing more than $1 million in a deal that would link a nearly broke city with a struggling developer.

The offer by the owners of the Museum Square Apartments to help rehabilitate the adjoining garage also could provide a happy ending to an unresolved court battle over the 170 free parking spaces the city has provided the apartment house since the two buildings opened beside each other on Methuen Street in 1989.

The battle began in 2010 when Mayor William Lantigua demanded that the owners of Museum Square, a bulky white tower that presides over the downtown skyline from the full city block it occupies beside the garage, pay for the free spaces. A state judge temporarily blocked the demand last year and the city has not pursued it.

Yesterday, a lawyer representing Jackson Street Housing Associates, the owner of the apartment building, said the company offered to help rehab the garage because it expected the city could not afford the work on its own. He said there was no agreement that the developers would help with the rehab if the city dropped its effort to end the free parking deal.

“We’re well aware, because we read the papers like everyone else, that the city is strapped for resources and probably is not going to be in a position to put capital funds into fixing up this garage,” said lawyer Richard Bluestein. “Because it’s an important amenity for residents of the city and for Museum Square, we want to see if we can help with that. If its good for the neighborhood, it’s good for the apartment building.”

Bluestein said the plans for the upgrades at the garage are in the works and could not describe them. Lantigua did not return a phone call.

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