© photo by Joe Gibbons
Construction continues at 351 Water Street
The extra 461 public parking spaces the City of St. John’s will create in the downtown core will cost $8 million or $17,353 per parking spot.
Coun. Tom Hann said the city was limited in its options and chose the cheapest way to meet an immediate need for public parking.
St. John’s had consultants do a parking study a few years ago, which was amended and accepted Tuesday by council. It found the downtown was deficient by 500 parking spaces.
“So, in 2010, council approved a recommendation to encourage the development of structured off-street parking and the way we did that was through joint ventures with private developers, a private-public partnership,” said Hann, who is council’s representative on the St. John’s Transportation Commission.
“The reason we went into private-public partnership (was) because if we had to construct a garage to deal with that, it would have been significantly higher. So it was a lot less cost to the taxpayer to do these deals.”
Hann didn’t recall exactly how much it would have cost for the city to build its own parking garage, but add to that maintenance, staffing and operating expenses, and it would have been considerably more than the partnership.
One of the partnerships is with Eastport Properties which is constructing an office tower and parking garage at 351 Water St. It will provide the city with 245 parking spaces.
The second project is on Duckworth Street, known as the Henry Bell development, and it will provide 216 spaces. Both are under construction and are expected to be completed in the next year or so.
“So the cost of us getting involved with that will be amortized over 20 or 25 years or whatever it takes, and the revenue from the parking meters and monthly parking rates will be put in a dedicated fund to pay off the debt,” said Hann.
When asked what he would say to taxpayers who might suggest it’s too much money to spend on parking, Hann said, “I would say it’s an investment.”
“The money will be borrowed and the revenue will be used to pay off the $8 million. It’s not going to cost the taxpayer money because we fully anticipate there will be enough revenue coming in every year to start paying down that debt and eventually it will be paid off.”
Also helping to offset the cost is a cash-in-lieu payment for developers who don’t provide enough parking for staff when they build a project.
“If you want to build a building downtown, based on a certain ratio, you have to provide parking for your employees. If you can’t, if you are deficient in spaces, you would have to give the city $18,000 for each space you are deficient, and that was based on research across the country,” Hann said.
“So that would go in a dedicated fund as well, which will help to pay down this debt and also to have money for future parking requirements or maybe for public transit into the downtown core. There are a number of ways the money would be spent in the future.”
All of the new developments in the core have met their parking requirements.
A certain number of the 461 new public parking spaces will have meters, Hann said, while others will be based on monthly rates. The city is not sure what that rate will be.
While the city regulates how much it costs for parking meters and public spaces, it has no control over rates charged by private parking companies such as Atlantic Place, Murray Premises or the former Fabulous 50’s parking lot, adjacent to the Murray Premises lot.
Rates charged by private companies range from $13 a day to $5 for three hours to $200 a month.
According to Downtown St. John’s website, there are more than 800 parking meters along Water Street, Duckworth Street, Harbour Drive and the connecting coves. In addition, there are 311 parking spaces in facilities owned by the city and approximately 2,100 privately owned parking spaces in the area bounded by Springdale Street, New Gower Street, Cavendish Square and Harbour Drive.