Apr. 22—Mechanical lift parking systems aren't new — they've been installed in some of the country's biggest cities to make the most out of cramped conditions.
But they are new to Maine, and a lift system at Verdante at Lincoln Park, a new condominium project on Federal Street at the base of Munjoy Hill in Portland, helped developers squeeze 43 parking spaces out of a space that would normally hold about one-third of that number. The choice also allowed the developers to avoid the higher cost of building a freestanding garage on the site.
It's the first elevator parking system in the state, according to the project's developers.
And while the basic technology has existed for a while, the system in Portland takes advantage of some newer technology, with residents able to summon their car — or send it on its way to a snug parking spot — with the use of a smartphone.
Erin Cooperrider, a principal of NewHeight Group, developers of the condo project, said the site squeezed in between Federal, Hampshire and Franklin streets posed "a little bit of a challenge" when it came to providing parking for residents' cars.
The lift system met that challenge, she said, because it allowed builders to put parking within the shell of the building while preserving upper floors for some of the 29 condominiums in the development.
Ryan Myers, vice president of Harding Steel, the manufacturer of the lift system, said such systems are becoming increasingly popular with developers because they are cheaper than building a parking garage and allow for efficient use of tight city spaces.
Cooperrider said the lift system at Verdante cost about $30,000 per space, while building a freestanding concrete garage would have run $40,000 to $70,000 per space.
Myers said the spaces are designed to be driven into, and for the driver to get out before the car is lifted or lowered into its parking space. That's accomplished by having the driver enter a code that's displayed outside the space, so they don't inadvertently get taken on a ride to an underground or above-ground space, he said.
Cooperrider said the parking area has a separate ground-floor space for drivers to use to unload packages and have all the passengers get out before the car is parked. The system isn't designed to have people in the cars while the lifts are operating, she said.
The system is "SUV-friendly," Myers said, with dimensions that will accommodate large cars and pickups, although a stretch limo is out of the question. And the elevator carries up to 5,800 pounds without breaking a sweat, Myers said, meaning even a heavy luxury SUV could be lifted or lowered into a space.
Harding Steel, based in Denver, moved into the mechanical lift parking business full time more than 50 years ago.
Myers said his company has installed about 3,000 lift systems since they developed the current generation in 2007. About 500 use technology similar to the one in Verdante, in which a smartphone is part of the system to summon a car to ground level, he said.