WALLINGFORD — As work on beautifying a median in the uptown area continues, the town is making progress on the design of more municipal parking near lower Center Street.
Work is underway to beautify the median between North Main Street and the 35 parking spaces along Simpson Court, with contractors hoping to finish by the end of the week. Grass will be replaced by brick pavers. Around a half dozen gardening planters will also be added.
Town Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan said the grass had become worn by people parking along Simpson Court and walking over it to the sidewalk along North Main Street.
“If the grass never got trampled I’d say there were no people and that’s a whole other problem,” he said.
The new design follows the trend of other beautification projects by creating a New Englandesque streetscape and by being community led, Ryan said. He noted the project was designed by Wallingford Center Inc., aided by volunteers from the community. The construction was donated by Little K’s Landscaping, of Wallingford.
The town Engineering Department took over the conceptual design created by WCI to create construction plans and bid the project.
Steve Lazarus, a member of WCI’s design subcommittee, said he’s excited to see the area transformed into something “spectacularly attractive.”
“Right now that surface is essentially a kind of neutral space. There's pretty trees there...flower and benches … but there hasn’t been any other benefit to that space. The benefit to having large flowering planter areas is huge,” he said.
While he created the original concept design, Lazarus said WCI Executive Director Liz Landow, who recently announced her retirement, advocated for the improvements for many years.
Karl Kieslich, owner of Little K’s, said he decided to submit a “zero bid” and donate the time and supplies to overhaul the median because of his connection to the downtown as a resident of Wallingford.
He estimated that if he had bid a figure on the project he would have placed it around $11,000.
“Wallingfords got that homey small town feeling,” he said. “Upper Center Street, you don't have that city feeling where there's a million cars.”
Design of the municipal parking lot at the site where Brothers Restaurant was located is nearing completion. The new lot will be between Hall Avenue and Quinnipiac St., near the historic train station.
Town Engineer Alison Kapushinski said her department is aiming to bring plans for the new lot up for permitting in the fall. The town purchased the property in 2018 and demolished the restaurant last year, adding 14,502 square feet to roughly 58,662 square feet that the town already owned around the property.
The town purchased the property for $411,000 and spent another $58,676 on demolition. An additional $59,000 fund balance remains of the $610,000 the town Town Council bonded for the project.
Kapushinski said the internal concept plans being developed are exploring how parking can be maximized while remaining in compliance with town regulations requiring buffer areas along the sides of lots. If complying with the rules is not feasible, applying for a special permit might be necessary.
“I'm definitely looking to stay compliant, but making sure we still get the most use out of that valuable property,” she said.
Some economic activity has been seen in the area, with properties changing owners and others on the market, meaning additional parking could be necessary in the future, Ryan said. He also noted that the town modified its zoning regulations to allow for higher density, mixed-use developments in the area with less parking required on site.
“The town is leading by example, we want people to come down to the lower part of the hill, here’s how were investing in the lower part of the hill,” he said.