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Austin Parking Enterprise to generate funds for projects

Monday, January 14, 2008 by Austin Monitor

City Council has voted unanimously to create a new organization to own and manage parking garages downtown. The City Manager will also study the possibility of consolidating existing city-owned parking garages into the Austin Parking Enterprise.


The organizational structure for the Austin Parking Enterprise is still to be determined. “You basically have two options,” said Bill Newman with Public Financial Management, which studied parking enterprises in other cities. “One is that the council will be in charge of this whole thing, just like you would with any other enterprise fund. Another option is to set up a local government corporation, and the Council could be the board of the corporation.”


The goal behind the new enterprise is to increase the supply of parking downtown while generating revenue for the city to use in other areas, such as hike and bike trails or mass transit. “Parking systems certainly can be self supporting,” Bill Newman told the Council. “Some of the key profitability factors of those are…if they have mature systems, if they have parking meters associated with them. Obviously, you don’t have any revenues to kick off a brand-new parking garage. You may have some deficiencies in early years to finance these things…and you may want to put in place some method to pay the general fund back.”


The resolution passed by the Council calls for the parking enterprise to be “self-supporting” and “market-driven,” two factors which Mayor Pro-Tem Betty Dunkerley said would be extremely important. “The key thing is that those projects pay for themselves, or make money,” she said, “and that we don’t get in a situation where we’re subsidizing these parking garages from the general fund.”


Before any new garages are built, they will have to be approved by the Council. Council Member Jennifer Kim said she hoped the garages could be designed in such a way that they could be converted to other uses in the event demand for parking decreases due to an increase in the popularity of mass transit.  “Maybe it’s an area where we have to say… we can’t get 12 stories, we can only do 10,” she said, “because we have to make each story taller. But then in the future we may say…we don’t need all ten stories, we can lease out five and make that residential or commercial…and then the other five is for parking.”


The first parking garages that would be part of the new enterprise could be built as part of city redevelopment projects, such as the Seaholm project or the Green Water Treatment Plant. Existing parking garages at city facilities could eventually be combined into the parking enterprise if their revenues are not already dedicated to other uses.

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