ATTLEBORO — Mayor Paul Heroux said Tuesday he’s in talks with a private developer who could bring to fruition the long-held hope of city officials to build a downtown parking garage for rail commuters and businesses.
He said the effort is in the “conceptual stage,” but the need for the garage is critical with the MBTA lot at capacity every day.
Also, the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority is aiming to develop a seven-acre stretch of land on Riverfront Drive across from Robbins Riverfront Park, and if that land is developed as expected it will create a need for even more parking, the mayor said.
The garage would be built on part of that land.
Heroux said the garage would likely be behind the 1 1/2-acre lot at the corner of Wall and South Main streets where developer Marco Crugnale intends to build Renaissance Station South, a 209-unit, two-building apartment complex complete with its own parking facility.
Crugnale’s first building, Renaissance Station North, which contains 80 apartments, was completed in 2015 and was sold earlier this year for $15.5 million.
He has a deal to buy the 1 1/2-acre ARA parcel across the street for $1.2 million.
Crugnale pays the ARA $5,000 a month as a sign of good faith he’ll consummate the deal at some point.
Heroux said the proposed garage could contain as many as 300 parking spaces, although no final determination has been made.
While the ARA, city and MBTA have been in talks for years about the construction of a commuter rail parking garage, the mayor said those plans appear dead.
“We were working with GATRA and the MBTA to see if the state had an interest in building an 800-car parking garage on MBTA land, but there seems to be little appetite or money for that,” he said.
The MBTA’s current surface lot has 780 spaces.
In 1999, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, announced that Congress had appropriated $500,000 as “seed money” for a commuter rail parking garage and bus station at the corner of Union and Mill streets.
That announcement touched off a broader effort by the city to “revitalize” downtown.
Two decades later, there’s been much progress on revitalization with the razing of old industrial buildings and the public works yard, coupled with new construction and an extensive streetscape program.
But the parking garage was never built.
Currently, the seven-acre ARA parcel, which is separate from the site to be sold to Crugale, is undergoing an environmental cleanup that could last another 18 to 24 months. When the land is clean, the ARA intends to offer it to developers.
The aim is to build apartments and businesses in what is the city’s first transit-oriented zoning district, which was created to support mixed uses and attract residents who want to live near the commuter rail and bus station.