Negotiations between the owners of the parking garage at The Tower condo building in downtown Fort Worth and some members of the board of a special downtown taxing district have reached an impasse over extending a parking lease that provides free daytime and nighttime parking to downtown visitors and library patrons.
The stalled talks come more than two years after the Downtown Tax Increment Finance board approved extending leases at four other downtown parking garages for night and weekend parking for downtown shoppers and visitors, including Bass Hall patrons, through December 2025, when the TIF expires.
That was done after an outcry that downtown businesses and events would be harmed if free parking was taken away. The TIF board compromised and executed leases at significantly lower amounts but warned that free parking would not last forever and that the board no longer wanted to support daytime parking.
The lease attached to The Tower garage at Fifth and and Taylor streets expires Dec. 31. When the lease was executed in 2006, it was considered part of an incentive package given to a former owner who was redeveloping the 36-story office building ravaged in the March 2000 tornado. The lease paid about $950,000 annually for 300 public daytime spaces for one free hour, and 300 free night and weekend spaces.
Now, the TIF is only willing to pay $23,100 annually, for 300 free night and weekend spaces and 24 unreserved spaces for 2 1/2 hours of free parking with library validation. The deal comes to about $77 a space. The owners, though, want to continue offering the 300 daytime spaces they say are vital to businesses on the west side of downtown as well as those closer to Sundance Square.
Evan Farahnik, a managing principal with Beverly Hills-based StarPoint Properties, which has owned the street-level retail space primarily leased by restaurants, the second floor of the building and the garage since 2009, said all that StarPoint wants is what’s fair and equitable. The recent “final offer” made by the TIF board is far less than what was approved two years ago on the other garages, he said.
“We’re just not going to walk away from it,” Farahnik said, adding that the free daytime parking has been used by more than 30,000 people this year. “That’s strong usage.”
3,311 Number of free night and weekend parking spaces in four downtown garages
One of the leases extended two years ago was to Sundance Square for 2,311 spaces in garages at 215 Commerce St., 400 Jones St. and 420 Throckmorton St., and the other with then-owner Cousins Properties, which covers 1,000 spaces in its garage at 777 Main St. connected to a 40-story multitenant office tower. That building has since been sold to Atlanta-based Brookdale Group and the lease transferred to them.
Sundance Square is being paid about $231,145 annually, or about $100 a space. The lease at 777 Main is paying $250,000 annually, or about $250 a space.
The full board of the TIF has not met to consider StarPoint’s lease renewal request. Negotiations have been handled by Downtown Fort Worth Inc., an advocacy organization that administers the downtown TIF for the city. TIF board Chairman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, the District 3 councilman, said a meeting couldn’t happen until January, but added he feels the offer to StarPoint is “perfectly reasonable.”
Free parking is offered from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Friday and all weekend.