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Friday, April 16, 2021

Downtown TIF parking dispute remains unresolved

The owners of the The Tower condominium parking garage are eager to resolve a dispute with the city’s Downtown TIF over a lease agreement for daytime and evening parking for downtown visitors.

StarPoint Properties, owners of the garage at The Tower, hope to reach a lease renewal agreement similar to agreements for free night and evening parking spaces in three Sundance Square parking garages and the 777 Main Street garage. The 777 Main St. garage provides free parking for Bass Hall patrons.

The lease between the TIF and the parking garage owners ended Dec. 31. California-based StarPoint, owns the retail and office space in The Tower building as well as the garage, wants a lease of $205,000 annually for 10 years to provide 300 free evening and weekend spaces and 300 free daytime spaces.

Four of the five TIP-subsidized garages have renewal agreements.

City Center, City Center II, Chase Bank and 777 Main have reached an agreement with the TIF, but The Tower owners have not.

Negotiations between the two sides have stalled over an October offer from former TIF Board Chairman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman to renew the lease for $23,100 annually for 10 years. The offer would provide 300 night and weekend parking spaces and 24 unreserved parking spaces for 2 1/2 hours of free parking spaces with library validation.

“We knew we were going to have to take a haircut on this, but we were expecting it to be around 80 percent,” said David Pettit, an economic development consultant representing StarPoint in the negotiations. “This would be a 98 percent reduction.”

The garage’s original lease in 2006 paid about $950,000 for 300 free one-hour spaces and 300 free evening and weekend spaces.

Aside from reducing the payment reduction, the offer also eliminates free daytime parking, leaving west-side businesses and restaurants without access to free parking for their patrons.

“We cannot believe that the TIF, or the public, want to abandon the valuable daytime parking that the TIF Board was so adamant about including in our original lease,” StarPoint Principal Evan Farahnik stated in a Jan. 5 letter to new TIF Board Chairwoman Ann Zadeh.

Restaurant owners such as Ramiro Ramirez of Salsa Limon at 550 Throckmorton St., on The Tower’s ground floor, say free parking is critical to his restaurant’s success.

“Without such access, we fear a substantial impact on sales, especially considering the building’s distance from other public parking garages,” Limon stated in a letter. “Customers rely on the free access that is provided rather than pay significant fees just to have a taco of two.”

Matters of fairness and government transparency are also intertwined in the dispute, according to Pettit.

In his own letter to Zimmerman, Pettit stated that lease renewal for the 777 Main Street garage pays $250,000 annually, down from $520,000 for evening parking. The reduction of 52 percent is a much smaller hit than the 98 percent decrease that The Tower has been offered.

“Additionally, the leases being renewed represent only Sundance Square interest and that concerns us regarding being treated fair and equitably and believe it is something to be carefully considered,” Pettit stated in the Nov. 18, 2016 letter. Zadeh took over for Zimmerman this year.

Downtown Fort Worth Inc. administers the Downtown TIF for the city and handles negotiations for parking garage lease renewals. Administrator Matt Beard stated in the a letter to Pettit that terms offered are “in line with City Center’s Garage 3 located in a similar geographic location as the Tower Garage making this offer seem fair and equitable to your clients.”

Beard also stated that the offer meets the financial goals of the the TIF Board’s financing and project plan and that the board no longer sees a need to subsidize daytime parking.

Pettit said StarPoint wants a meeting of the full TIF Board to make its case since renewal offer was made solely by Zimmerman and reaffirmed by Beard.

“We want our day in court,” Pettit said. “We have a problem transparency and open government when you have one person speaking for the board.”

Zedah did not respond to a request for comment.

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