GREENWICH — It’s only a test for now, but valet parking will be coming to Greenwich Avenue to encourage local shopping during the holiday season.
The service — costing $20 per car — will be offered from noon to 6 p.m. on the next two weekends: Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 as well as Dec. 19 and Dec. 20.
“This is meant to be a test,” said Sebastian Dostmann, who proposed the service with Alyssa Keleshian Bonomo. “We’re trying to give a service and bring residents to the Avenue and get people to shop local.”
Drivers can leave their cars at one of two stations: the horseshoe driveway in front of the Greenwich Senior Center and in front of J Crew at Greenwich Avenue’s intersection with Lewis Street.
The private service will be run by Parking Productions, John Dent Inc., which has done valet parking at previous Greenwich events. They will park the cars at private lots on Mason Street and West Elm Street.
The goal is to provide an easy parking option during a busy time of year, said Dostmann and Keleshian Bonomo, who are part of the private nonprofit Greenwich Community Projects Fund, which is behind the initiative.
Valet parking can “enhance the experience” for shoppers heading downtown, they said.
John Dent, general manager of Parking Productions, told the Board of Selectmen on Thursday that he is happy to be part of the project.
“We are a business, so making money would be great, but that’s not our primary concern here,” Dent said. “Quite honestly, if I could minimize my losses, that’s a win for me.”
The valet parking was unanimously approved Thursday by the Board of Selectmen after several questions on whether the town had the legal authority to simply approve the arrangement between the Community Projects Fund and Parking Productions.
Town Attorney Vincent Marino expressed concern that town property would be used for a private purpose without the town going through its formal, open bid process to hire a private firm.
“This is a wonderful concept, but it’s very important from a government perspective that government remains neutral from a business perspective,” Marino said. “Government shouldn’t be providing preferential treatment to local businesses over businesses outside of town or between local businesses.”
First Selectman Fred Camillo said he also had concerns about putting the project out for bid, which would have made it impossible to offer the service this holiday season.
Ultimately, the selectmen reached an agreement that the service would run for two weekends as a pilot program. It will provide data for future decisions while allowing the temporary arrangement to go forward because parking is, in Camillo’s words, “a critical need” this holiday season.
To become permanent, the service would have to be offered through a request for proposals, in which companies would submit bids that would be evaluated by the town Purchasing Department.
The demand for valet parking is unknown during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dent estimated there could be 50 to 100 vehicles a day with turnover at both stations.