Editor's note: Happy April Fools' Day!
With its glassy facade, its arch shape and its ambiance of silent elegance, Palo Alto's iconic new garage is like no other in the city and possibly the country.
There are no oil stains here, no roaring motors, and no curt exchanges between drivers who take too long to get out of their spots and drivers who are forced to wait too long to get into theirs. Every visitor gets a complimentary cup of Blue Bottle coffee upon arriving into spotless facility, where he or she then hands the car keys to one of three valets waiting by the entrance. Also, every car here is a Tesla.
The new facility at the former parking lot on Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street was completed last week after a years-long effort by Palo Alto staff to identify an adequate site for the garage and to allocate enough funds to make the new facility happen. In addition, City Council members were adamant that the garage should be environmentally friendly, visually stunning and serve as an "iconic landmark" to downtown's commercial core.
The $258-million facility has cost the city roughly $200 million more than the council had estimated in June 2014, when it adopted an infrastructure funding plan that designated a new downtown garage as a top city priority. To make up the balance, the city entered into two public-private partnerships, one with prominent developer Charles "Stomp" Cain and another with a local business that wished to remain anonymous. The business also provided funding for a public-art display at the garage entrance: a platinum statue of Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla driving a Tesla Roadster.
The four-story structure includes three floors of parking and a fourth-floor penthouse occupied by Cain, who is widely referred to as downtown's "parking czar." Each of the garage's 158 vast spaces smells like lavender and honey and comes with an 80-amp charging station. A designated section on the third floor for drivers who prefer to park their own cars includes parking spaces with vanity mirrors, massage chairs and a complimentary breath mint shaped like a Model S sedan.
The facility also comes with a cramped basement that can fit up to 12 non-Tesla electric cars. Signs throughout the garage direct diesel-powered vehicles to seek parking at one of downtown's other parking facilities.
The new garage opened last week with a ceremony attended by local council members, planning commissioners, Tesla executives and downtown residents who have long clamored for an increased parking supply. Councilman Greg Scharff, a Tesla driver, cut the ribbon to the new facility and proclaimed it a "wonderful day in Palo Alto."
"In addition to being one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown, this garage is in many ways the perfect emblem of our many efforts," Scharff said. "It's clean, it's elegant, it's environmentally friendly and it welcomes all drivers, except those who drive lesser cars."