Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Port Authority signs parking lease; Terms to be defined within 75 days

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (Port) on June 21 signed a 30-year lease with the City of Cincinnati for its parking assets, ending a four-day period during which it was unclear whether or not the agency would sign at all.

The agreement gives the Port responsibility for overall governance of the City's on-street and off-street parking operations and will allow it to issue bonds that will provide the City with a $92 million upfront payment and at least $3 million in annual payments. The City will retain ownership and will have final say over parking rates, hours, and enforcement.

A June 19 Cincinnati Enquirer report had indicated that the Port was waiting for assurances that the City would not cut its funding in future budgets. City Council originally had considered cutting $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funding to the agency in the fiscal year 2014 budget, but later reconsidered.

"We're honored to be a trusted partner to manage and modernize these public assets that people rely on every day for convenient parking," Port Authority President and CEO Laura Brunner said in a prepared release.

Included in the lease is a 75-day period for the Port to review the lease and do its due diligence. Part of that work will include an independent evaluation of the structural condition of the garages that the Port will be leasing, which should take about two months.

The Port will also move forward on signing contracts with the ParkCincy team of AEW Capital, ‎Xerox, Denison Parking and Guggenheim, the four companies that will be charged with daily operations, technology upgrades, and enforcement.

"Our mission is to accelerate economic development in our city and county," said Otto Budig, chair of the Port Authority board. We believe the leasing of the parking assets in the City of Cincinnati is a wise decision by City Council. It allows the Port to engage private experts who can update and upgrade the parking system while freeing the City to focus on other higher priorities."

During this period, specifics within the contract will be tweaked. The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds, City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. said.

"Changes that have been discussed, including those to hours as well as the financial implications of those changes, can still be worked on," Dohoney said. "We can do this in the timeframe that the bond offering is being prepared."

Some of the money will be used for economic development projects. But in a statement released June 12, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said that her highest priority is to put Cincinnati back on the road to a structurally balanced budget, and by a specific date.

"We must use the parking revenue for long-term investments that support long-term fiscal sustainability," she said. "This includes immediately restoring the city reserves to 10 percent; increasing the city's contribution to the pension immediately to 24 percent of payroll; and making capital investments in departments that significantly reduce long-term operating expenses, and major capital projects that spur growth and development across our neighborhoods."

The public likely won't see any noticeable changes for at least four to six months.

The deal had been hold since March, when Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Winkler issued a temporary restraining order after finding that the agreement's passage via emergency ordinance was in violation of the City charter.

Following the ruling, opponents of the plan, led by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, and mayoral candidate John Cranley, gathered more than 12,000 signatures – enough to put the plan up for a vote on the November ballot.

On June 12, the First District Court of Appeals reversed Winkler's ruling and later denied a request for a stay of the decision by opponents, clearing the way for Dohoney to sign on to the agreement.

Previous reading on BC:
City sells Tower Place for $1; Parking and retail coming (5/21/13)
Dohoney: Parking Modernization Plan opens revenue stream, keeps City control (2/21/13)
City 'FAQs' address parking proposal misconceptions, concerns (12/21/12)
City plans offer for Tower Place in 9 days (11/20/12)
Elimination of Downtown, OTR parking minimums being studied (6/27/12)