Building Boom Spurs Public Parking Shift

Thomas Breen photosThe city’s parking authority is about to pick up a 278-space garage downtown, a few months before it is set to lose a 470-space surface lot in West River.

Adding the former could bring in around $600,000 a year, as well as bolster parking options for downtown’s red-hot building boom.

Dropping the latter would mean an annual $700,000 loss, but might also encourage the development of an empty lot in a neighborhood eager for housing.

That discussion of public parking change-ups amidst the city’s broader development trends and needs took place at Monday night’s New Haven Parking Authority meeting at the authority’s headquarters at 232 George St.

On the agenda were two seemingly unrelated items: the city’s upcoming acquisition of the 278-space parking garage at 270-290 State St. as part of a larger public-private deal that will see the Boston-based Beacon Communities LLC purchase the Residences at Ninth Square apartment complex; and the upcoming expiration of the authority’s permit to run the publicly owned, 470-space Sherman-Tyler parking lot in the Rt. 34 corridor in West River.

The two changes will essentially balance each other out in the authority’s roughly $25 million annual budget.

Meanwhile, they describe an imminent shift in publicly-owned parking away from a neighborhood where city officials and alders are hoping for more residential development on top of currently empty lots, and towards a city center that is swollen with market-rate apartment developments, many popping up on top of formerly empty lots.

“With the State Street station opening up,” Parking Authority Acting Executive Director Doug Hausladen said at Monday night’s meeting in support of the State Street garage acquisition, “with the Hartford Line, with more investment happening at Union Station and around Union Station, with the Coliseum site breaking ground this year on at least Orange Street crossing, there will be a dearth of parking in that neck of the woods.”

The State Street garage, he said, could meet some of the parking needs of current and future apartment developments that do not have bountiful onsite parking.

And in regard to the West River lot, city anti-blight Livable City Initiative (LCI) Director Serena Neal-Sanjurjo told the Independent on Tuesday morning that the city would love to see the Sherman-Tyler parking lot converted into housing. It sits right next to a vacant stretch of land soon to be developed into 56 affordable townhomes, converted into more housing.

“The city has been in discussions with the community and developers interested in Parcel 2,” she said via email. “We are currently working on a strategy for pre-development that will enhance the West River SHIP project [and] build on the work outlined in the Hill to Downtown Community Plan and other planning docs. We will continue to work on projects that will provide affordable rental and homeownership units throughout the city.”

State Street Garage Coming Online

The city doesn’t own the State Street garage yet. That acquisition will likely take place soon.

On Monday night, the Parking Authority commissioners voted unanimously in support of a resolution providing for the authority’s purchase and operation of the State Street garage for $3.6 million. That money will be paid to Beacon Communities LLC, the soon-to-be new owners of the 335-unit Ninth Square apartment complex, in $60,000 payments made twice a year over the course of the next 30 years.

The Board of Alders signed off on the residential, commercial, and parking garage deal in October 2018 and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) signed off on its part in helping finance the deal in January 2019.

Parking Authority Attorney Joe Rini said on Monday night that he expects the deal to go through and the State Street garage to fall under the city’s ownership, and the authority’s operations, by April.

Once the deal goes through, the authority will be responsible for paying for operations, repairs, and maintenance, just as it does at its other downtown parking garages. The authority will also have to pay the $60,000 semi-annual payments over three decades. If the authority ever can’t make those payments, then the alders will have to pony up, or, per the terms of the deal, Beacon will be allowed to deduct the unpaid amount from its $660,000 annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to the city.

Hausladen and Parking Authority Chief Financial Officer Brian Seholm said that the authority should be able to make the semi-annual payments comfortably, despite current unknowns around how much the authority will need to invest up front in capital improvements to the garage.

Seholm estimated that the garage should bring in upwards of $600,000 a year in parking revenue.

“There is solid occupancy and solid demand over there,” Hausladen said, based on the latest parking user information he had seen for the still-privately-held garage.

“We believe we can very much cover the payments.”

He added that the boost to city-owned parking downtown could not come at a better time, as former and current surface lots on are being snatched up left and right for development projects. That includes Audubon Square, a proposed 60-unit tower at State Street and Chapel Street, as well as some of Stamford developer Randy Salvatore’s projects in the Hill, which Hausladen said will soon render half of the city’s Tower Lane parking lot inoperable thanks to the storage of construction equipment.

“Those parkers are going to have to go somewhere,” he said about the current occupants of the Tower Lane lot. The State Street garage, he said, could meet that need.

West River Lot Going Offline

The Sherman-Tyler lot, meanwhile, came up on Monday night in the context of Seholm’s budget planning report to the authority members.

Seholm said that, come Oct. 1, 2019, the authority will likely lose its the 470-space surface parking lot it runs between North Frontage Road and Legion Avenue near Tyler Street.

The authority paved and built that lot in 2014, when it got a special permit from the City Plan Commission that allowed it to run the vacant land as a parking lot for four years with a one-year extension. In 2018, the commission granted the authority that one-year extension, which expires on Oct. 1.

For the past five years, the authority has leased out the entirety of the lot to Yale-New Haven Hospital, which runs its own shuttle from the lot to the hospital’s campus. The lease with the hospital brings in $704,000 each year, Seholm said.

“It’s a huge impact to us on cash flow,” he said.

But come October, the authority expects that it’s right to run the lot will not be renewed, since the land falls within the Rt. 34 corridor, a tract of vacant land the city has long hoped to develop with residential, commercial, and office uses.

Late last year, the alders signed off on a tax abatement deal that would allow for the development of 56 affordable townhomes right next door to the current Sherman-Tyler lot. That neighboring project, Seholm and Rini estimated, will likely make the parking lot land that much more of an attractive site for future developments.

As much as the loss of the parking lot would represent a financial hit to the authority, Seholm said, ultimately the authority is in support of the city’s efforts to encourage the development of vacant land, which should bring more residents and visitors to New Haven, which should result in more long-term parking revenue.

“We’re here to support development,” Seholm said.

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posted by: Ryn111 on February 27, 2019  4:47pm

Start to ask questions now ... If Landino/Centerplan are awarded the land to develop at the Sherman/Tyler Parking lot something is up…..

posted by: OutofTown on February 27, 2019  5:00pm

Unless there is a plan to add at least 275 units, there is NO way that a housing development on the Sherman Tyler lot would be more productive than continuation of the parking lease at $704,000/year.  The housing authority should keep the land as parking leased to the Hospital. 

Moreover, affordable housing developments do not pay much in real estate taxes because they are protected by State statutes (8-216a).  It should not matter that the adjacent site is being developed with affordable housing (which will not pay much in taxes).  The City needs the revenue, and should not shoot itself in the foot !

posted by: boxerct on February 27, 2019  6:43pm

We’re giving up $700,000 a year and paying $120,000 a year to possibly make $600,000 a year, but it essentially balances out?

Does anyone else have a hard time understanding this math, or is this the same as when Mayor Harp told us that our 11% property tax increase was actually only 1.5%, because…. math?

posted by: westriverpropertyowner on February 27, 2019  9:58pm

My West River neighbors and myself have made it clear for years that we are totally opposed to any continued parking lots dumped in our neighborhood.  Even the Sherman/Tyler lot was foisted on the neighborhood without the community having a proper voice in the decision.  Hundreds more cars means even more pollution.  I agree with LCI Director Serena Neal-Sanjurjo what we want is new development, preferably that which ties our neighborhood back together coupled with traffic calming and thru streets that bring the former threads of our community together.  Add to that small shops, local restaurants and businesses and a real healing can begin. 

Right now we have a wonderful opportunity to get it right.  We have a great project of 56 units on the last parcel of the connector that has received funding which includes state of the art solar and passive solar design and is supported by local residents investing in it.  Why not give this new community places to shop and eat right across the street on the next two parcels instead of a no imagination waste of a parking lot.

Yale University and the hospital like to present themselves as great neighbors but their incredible expansion all over the City and in neighboring towns along with corporate landlords like Pike and Mandy is putting tremendous pressure on individual homeowners and small businesses who are absorbing extremely high taxes and ever poorer residents who can’t even afford the rents.

Here is a chance for them to act responsibly by putting their parking outside our already overburdened neighborhood .  I’d rather see Yale build a large community center in West River and a culinary Restaurant right next door on the connector and hand the deed and keys to the West River neighborhood as a place where our youth can have a safe place to enjoy and a a new business in our community that gives us a place to have a good meal.  This kind of project could give our West River steady revenue for the future and jobs also.

posted by: ItsGettingBetter on February 28, 2019  8:15am

The State Street garage is full most weekdays with public users many of whom work in the Ninth Square. How does the city’s purchase of the garage open more spots? Also, is the surface lot property owned by Cohen really going to be developed? This lot is also nearly full on weekdays.

posted by: 1644 on February 28, 2019  9:06am

WestRiver:  If you want lower taxes, you should oppose projects like the 56 unit development which will receive a long-term tax abatement while housing lots of residents who will require lots of expensive services, as well as oppose the closure of a lot that brings the city $700K/year.  Moreover, while building a community center is not part of Yale’s mission, how would it bring in a steady revenue stream?  The Central YMCA and Boys Club have long struggled to balance their budgets.  As for a cooking school, the CIA moved to Hyde park long ago, but Gateway offers cooking classes for local residents.

posted by: OutofTown on February 28, 2019  10:37am

How many holes in the foot can the Parking Authority have and still keep walking?

P.A. has a big hole in its left foot after losing College Street as a tenant for the vacant cafe/night club at the corner of Crown Street.  There’s no way the Shubert Theater group will make the P.A. whole financially, or be true benefit to its neighbors.  It’s unfortunate the administrators are allowed to make significant mistakes that create hardship for the City.  Hell, the administrators salaries don’t change, so why should they care?

The adjacent housing project to the Sherman/Tyler lot will only pay the City $40,000/year in taxes.  Why would the P.A. give up $700,000/year in favor of a potential development that may yield $40,000/year in taxes - in light of an 11% increase in the mill rate.

Does anyone think this is a good idea?

posted by: Annie on February 28, 2019  2:07pm

12 years (claimed by many) to tipping point, and we’re still nonchalant about actively supporting the internal combustion machine?

And, BTW, don’t want to spoil the fun, but electric vehicles (AFV) are worse. Nationally, electricity generation’s main combustion source is coal, which is why electricity beats all non-electric transportation in GHG emissions.

Transportation includes a wide swath of modes besides cars. The two engines on a Boeing 777 (each 110,000 horsepower) equals 1,600 Toyota Corollas, which, if lined up bumper to bumper, would be a line of cars four miles long, about the same length as the airplanes’ beautiful “vapor trails.”

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 1, 2019  9:15am

Annie, your statement about electric vehicles is based on outdated information at the national level and is simply incorrect locally. Nationally, natural gas surpassed coal as a generating fuel several years In New England, gas and nuclear energy account for nearly 80% of the power generated, coal for less than 2%. Natural gas has its own climate change issues, but people driving electric vehicles in New England are reducing their carbon footprint vis-a-vis conventional cars.

posted by: paulapanzarella on March 3, 2019  12:35am

I lived in the West River neighborhood for 25 years, and now rent out my house there. For at least the past 10 years, the West River community has had meetings about the Route 34 connector & the development we wanted there. And it did not include blocks of parking. “The deal” for that Tyler/Sherman lot ran counter to the wishes of the neighbors.

I’m surprised that so many people who commented here had nothing to say about the rights of residents in a neighborhood to decide what kinds of development they’d like to see. Considering that the air in this neighborhood is already highly polluted, that asthma and upper respiratory diseases affect many, why keep a parking lot? So the hospital can have a steady supply of patients in the ER? No, I refuse to be that cynical. I think it’s because of rank pragmatism. “Get money quick, it’s easy with parking.”

To OutofTown, boxerct & 1644, your replies give me the impression you’re fine with the parking lot but would that be the case if it were around the corner from your house? We’ve waited a long time to fix the “urban development” that wiped out the Legion Avenue neighborhood. A parking lot isn’t the answer.

You want money? Why aren’t local politicians talking about a progressive income tax?  Feb. 1, Rich Scinto reported in Patch “In CT there are 122,045 millionaire households, for a ratio to total households of 8.89 percent.” 17 billionaires live in CT. One ten-thousandth of a billion (.001%) is $100,000. A fraction of a percentage can bring money to the state & to the cities. DataHaven’s figures in 2016 - the number of rich increased and the number of poor increased. 49% of city residents are low income. Median income is $37,508. Poverty has doubled since 1980 to 16% of all residents (annual income of $24,000 for a family of four).

If any politician really wanted to ensure the cities and towns could function, they should be up at the legislature demanding a progressive income tax.

Enough of apartheid economics!

posted by: 1644 on March 3, 2019  1:47pm

Paula:  No, I wouldn’t want a large parking lot near me.  Thus, I live a a financially stable community in a neighborhood where demand for parking is low.  As it is,  several commercial properties have been converted to single family residential since I moved here, as there just isn’t support for small stores and gasoline stations.  You, on the other hand, bought a house near a major state highway at a time when, I believe, DeStefano was agitating for a major surface boulevard to occupy the state-owned land seized and cleared for a below grade, limited access highway to Derby.
  BTW, the state and federal governments already have progressive income taxes.  New Haven and Hamden’s representatives have long been pushing to make it more progressive.  They have not, however, been able to persuade a majority of their fellow legislators the such a move is wise.
https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/porter_elliott_taxes/
  If there comes such as time as state aid to the city is massively increased such that the city doesn’t need the income from that parking lot, then have at it.  In planning, however, one should realize that while the ECS is partly court ordered in that is is a response to Horton v. Meskill, most state aid is entirely discretionary, and the state can decide to reduce or eliminate programs at will.

posted by: OutofTown on March 4, 2019  12:04pm

If a robber stole $1,000,000 from the City of New Haven, all of us would cheer the police when that robber was incarcerated.  What if it was taken directly from you?

When the Parking Authority takes $1,000,000 from the City of New Haven by mis-management (sum of $700k parking lot and lost College Street rent), no-one seems to care.  Yet, the impact to our beloved City is the same.  There’s $1,000,000 less to support the schools and infrastructure. 

It’s not easy to earn a $1,000,000 per year.  But in the blink of an eye, the Parking Authority has lost it.