1. Mayor Ed Murray announced yesterday that he’s selling the Pacific Place Garage; the city bought the 1200 slot garage in 1998 for $73 million as part of a plan to revitalize downtown. The news comes with the assessment from both the mayor and council member Tim Burgess that, mission accomplished, we have revitalized the downtown core.
Burgess noted the deal—controversial at the time because of the public/private partnership with private businesses like Nordstrom—“paid off…revitalizing our downtown.”
We’ll be coming out ahead by $22 million.
And Murray elaborated:
City ownership of the Pacific Place Garage, built in 1998, was key to the redevelopment of a three-block area of downtown at a time when boarded-up, graffiti-covered buildings were prevalent in Seattle’s commercial core. The redevelopment also included moving Nordstrom to the vacant Frederick & Nelson Building, constructing the Pacific Place retail mall and redeveloping the former Nordstrom properties for additional new retail, office and other commercial uses. These efforts inspired a wave of development that led to the vibrant downtown residents and visitors enjoy today.
“The Pacific Place Garage has contributed to the success of downtown, bringing more people to shop and eat in the city, supporting a vibrant business district and improving public safety."
It’s a rosy spin (and there’s truth to the fact that the downtown core is more vibrant than it was 20 years ago; a city report estimates $34 million in increased city tax revenues since 1998 from renewed businesses). But we’re selling the garage because we’ve been losing money on it.
“Over the years, the garage’s operating revenue could not keep up with escalating debt payments,” Murray said.
And a city report gamed out that we’d continue losing money on it through 2026. And also that “utilization has declined since 2004.”
Part of the reason it’s losing money is from debt service and another is that we’re not charging as much as we can. Rates, per the original deal, are set at 80 percent of the market rate.
Ring a bell? This is just another example of the city’s MO of subsidizing parking; while downtown commercial parking rates can climb north of $10 per hour, the city caps metered city street parking at $4. (The new private owners are only committed to the 80 percent rate through the end of 2016, by the way.)
Murray’s announcement went on to say he planned to spend the proceeds from the sale (after paying off the remaining debt) on a new North Precinct police station.
But to use government jargon, I don’t quite get the nexus there.
If we’ve been losing money subsidizing parking downtown for 20 years, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the money (that we’re getting back now after unloading this car-friendly investment) on a project to help get people downtown, not cars?
2. Speaking of the mayor, I was on KUOW yesterday talking about the ridiculous texts he sent Sally Bagshaw. You can listen here.