By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,325)
Parking issues seem to erupt like spontaneous combustion on Munjoy Hill. It can be about the lack of off-street parking – especially tough during the numerous snow-bans this winter. The parking issue du jour has taken a different turn and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. It’s about the cost of parking for the handicapped at the Portland Flower Show. The annual event began on Wednesday evening with a Gala and ends tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, March 8th, at 5:00 pm.
For the past sixteen years or so, the Show has been held in one of the historic buildings on the site of the Portland Company Complex, 58 Fore Street on the waterfront. During all of that time the parking spaces immediately around the building housing the Show have been reserved for the handicapped. These spaces have also been free to the handicapped. But this year things were different and it didn’t sit well with many.
On Thursday and up until Friday at 1:00 pm., these same handicapped spaces cost users $20. per space. A change that caught many handicapped by surprise as well as the organizer of the Show, Joanna Sprague, she said this afternoon at Show offices at 58 Fore Street. What also changed since last year’s Show is the ownership of the property as well as the company who manages the parking lot for the new owner from now on. Unified Parking Partners, an experienced, local company, has a contract with the new owners of the property, CPB2, to run the parking concession on its behalf.
Numerous complaints about the changed parking policy were received on-line by the Show organizer. So many, that as a matter of good will Sprague refunded the $20. charge to many who complained. McNutt said that they were charging $20. on Thursday and Friday. But as of Friday at 1:00 pm., the price was reduced to $10. McNutt said his company added about 130 parking spaces in the space closer to the shore that previously were not used for parking. That’s because boats from Portland Yacht Services took up that space. Those boats were relocated by December 31, 2014 to the New Yard at 100 Commercial Street by Phineas Sprague, Jr. as per his agreement with CPB2. The charge for parking in that location for the Flower Show is $10.00 according to McNutt.
“We’ve been trying to assist people in getting closer to the show,” said McNutt. “That’s what this has been about.” For Joanna Sprague: “This is about change. Change is always hard. People have to consider who their clients are. We know because we’ve been doing this for 18 years. Flower Show attendees are a much older population. We have tried to give them a break.” The annual Maine Boatbuilders Show is coming up in two weeks. “At least we know what to expect on parking policy for that show,” said Sprague. “Boaters generally are more affluent.”
Attendance for the Flower Show was generally down, probably due to a number of factors including the lack of flowers and the continued deterioration of the building.
The Flower Show and CPB2 are negotiating for next year’s Portland Flower Show.