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AYER — The town of Ayer held an informational meeting to discuss and review proposed designs for the downtown commuter parking garages with the public. The proposed garages will be located along Central Ave and Park Street.

The meeting, held on Thursday, Sept. 25, in the Great Hall of Town Hall, was facilitated by Chris Kluchman with Selectman Carolyn McCreary giving introductions along with Jim Fay.

Steve Cecil, of the Cecil Group, presented preliminary designs. Christopher Ryan, the town’s planning and development director, was also present.

The purpose of the meeting was to introduce preliminary designs to the public and to solicit input.

Public input focused mainly on aesthetics and possible amenities to the garages, including connections to the Rail Trail, gathering spaces for the public and possible eateries.

The meeting was a follow-up to the May 2007 meeting that introduced the garage plan to the public. The proposal calls for a two-site solution to the parking problem in downtown Ayer, while keeping the train station as a focal point of the downtown area.

“Keeping the train station is vital,” said Fay. He said that for the past year and a half, the town had been “working through the funding” while at the same time dealing with a new administration on Beacon Hill.

Steve Cecil gave the major presentation of the night, offering attendees five different preliminary designs, three for the Central Street garage and two for the larger Park Street garage.

Cecil, who lauded the idea of two garages, said there was “great wisdom” in splitting up the parking.

The proposed Central Street garage could hold between 110 and 140 cars, while the Park Street garage could hold 240 to 250, Cecil said, for a possible total of 350 to 390 spaces.

In proposing the designs, which focused on aesthetics, safety, security and environmental engineering, Cecil said the town should keep its standard high.

“Our job is to envision what could be and set our standards to those expectations,” Cecil said.

Of the three Central Street garage proposals, one would include a possible entrance off Main Street. The only problem with that scenario, said Cecil, could be that the sight-lines for oncoming traffic might not be long enough to be safe. “That is something that the highway engineers would have to work out,” he said.

The other two scenarios both included entrances from Central Street. All three garages would “connect with the downtown area” and allow shoppers to park their cars and walk to Main Street businesses.

The proposed garages would all create “some landscaping opportunities,” and open space, Cecil said, with “perhaps a statue, memorial or sculpture something like that.”

Of the three Central Street scenarios, the first was “efficient and simple,” he said, the second “very efficient but maybe not possible” and the third was the “most expensive, but with fewer spaces.”

The second proposed garage, on Park Street, would be “much, much more that a parking facility,” the designer said, in part due to its connection to the Rail Trail.

The garages will be paid for with $3.15 million from the federal government and $2 million from the state.

The idea for the garage first began in 1995 and was really put into focus when U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan pushed through federal funding in 2004. For the next few years, various groups, including the Downtown Parking Task Force, brought the idea closer to fruition until the idea was submitted to, and passed by the Board of Selectman and town meeting.

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