Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership gathered parking experts, community members and city officials this week to hash out a list of recommendations for the city to consider while drawing up the request for proposals for firms looking to lease city garages. The Ravenstahl administration wants to lease the Parking Authority’s garages for 50 years and then use the proceeds to shore up the city’s under funded pension program. Downtown Partnership CEO Mike Edwards says they began the process nearly a year ago but it’s importance increased when the mayor floated his lease proposal. The panel came out with a long list of recommendations dealing with everything from length of lease to parking policies under the lease agreement. Edwards says he is concerned with the city entering into a 50-year lease. He says 35 years is a more manageable number. The panel recommends that the city ask bidders for a numbers at 35 years and at 50 years. The city needs roughly $200 million from the deal to bring the pension fund up to the state mandated 50% level. The panel also called for the bids to include a 5-year rate structure guarantee, the promise of the use of more technology and an outline on how to help promote downtown retail activity. He says among the ideas on that front is restricting parking on the first floors of garages until after 10:00am. The panel tackled a few controversial issues as well. Some City Council members had complained that the terms of the lease, as it is written now, would not allow the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to build any garages for the next 50 years. The PDP is asking that the possibility of at least some competition be left open. Edwards says even among the participants there was some debate of parking supply. He says some feel there is a need for more parking in the golden triangle right now, while others feel more parkers need to be encouraged to use fringe garages. The panel also touched on some issues that have been flying below the radar including a desire to have more free parking for special events and church services. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership paid for the $19,000 study. It was presented to the Mayor before it was made public. It can be downloaded from the PDP’s web site.