Port Authority interested in buying city parking garages and parking metersWritten by Michael Stainbrook | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has shown interest in acquiring the three city-owned parking garages and all city parking meters.
“The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has offered the concept of buying the city-owned parking garages as a method of providing income to the City of Toledo,” Port Authority President and CEO Paul Toth said in a statement. “We believe that it is important to keep local control of what we consider to be ‘public infrastructure’ critical to the redevelopment of downtown Toledo.”
The garages were funded by a $3 million Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) and are currently operated by the privatized Downtown Toledo Parking Authority. The city designates a portion of the garages’ annual revenue for the Toledo-Lucas County Housing Trust Fund to reinvest the grant into the community. Mayor Mike Bell has promised $90,000 for the fund in 2010, with $50,000 annually through 2013.
Carla Firestone Nowak, communications director for the Port Authority, said the prospect of selling the garages first came about during the end of former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s final term in office.
“That’s when we became interested in the process,” she said. “With the Bell administration we’ve revisited that concept.”
Firestone Nowak said there have been no negotiations regarding price or other specifics with Bell and his administration.
“We don’t have a defined timeline at this point,” she said. “It’s really in a conceptual phase right now. We’re determining with them right now if there’s any viability behind the concept.”
But Housing Fund Board President Hugh Grefe said the Port Authority must know enough about the garages’ viability because it chose to pursue buying the garages from the city. He said the Port Authority said it had “completed [its] due diligence.” Grefe said such a statement indicates knowledge of the bonds required to purchase the garages as well as if the garages have sufficient cash flow to repay those bonds. He said the Port Authority might also be negotiating to operate city parking meters.
Firestone Nowak confirmed Grefe’s comments about the parking meters, saying, “It’s all one concept, so it would be all of the city-owned parking facilities.” She said that included all three garages and city-owned parking meters.
In 2009, the meters reportedly generated $412,000 in revenue.
“My impression is the city would like us to think this is just a casual conversation,” he said.
Grefe said a concern of his had been that the city might cut off payment to the Housing Fund if it no longer owned the garages. Grefe said the Superior Street, Vistula and Port Lawrence parking had been rumored to be worth a combined $15 million to $18 million. Superior Street garage is located between Madison and Adams streets. Vistula is at Summit and Cherry streets across from One SeaGate. Port Lawrence is at Jefferson and St. Clair streets attached to Huntington Center.
“It’s become clear that the Bell administration had become interested in whether they could find someone who would buy it,” he said. “It proves that there was value created as result of the UDAG because the city has an asset that’s its now going to sell.”
Grefe said he talked to Deputy Mayor of Operations Steve Herwat on Aug. 23. Grefe said Herwat agreed with the Housing Fund’s board of directors that the city would still owe the fund its annuity.
“We were very encouraged when Steve Herwat agreed with that,” he said.
Herwat confirmed the discussions and said the city and Port Authority “are talking.”
City Public Information Officer Jen Sorgenfrei also confirmed the Port Authority’s interest.
“I know that some very initial discussions have occurred,” she said. “There are no offers on the table, no price negotiations at this point.”
Grefe said the city would have to choose between paying annuities or a lump sum to the Housing Fund. He said selling the garages would not solve the city’s budget problems.
“If they don’t make permanent deep changes in the current cost of the city’s operations, then they’ll have the same problem next year,” he said. “There’s no sign that that’s going to change.”
“What you’re doing is your cannibalizing your asset base to carry on an unsupportable operating expense.”
Clayton Johnston, president of the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, has not responded to a request for comment.