Downtown Fort Worth parking to stay free in some garages

Two owners of large downtown Fort Worth parking garages have agreed to new terms that will continue free public parking on nights and weekends.

Fort Worth Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman said Friday that agreements have been reached, but he did not yet know the terms.

But, he added, “everybody will be happy,” if things go as they now appear.

Details were still being addressed on one of the leases, said Zimmerman, who chairs the Downtown Tax Increment Finance District board. The board is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the new leases. The TIF director is handling negotiations.

In August, the Downtown TIF board agreed to a 90-day extension with Sundance Square’s City Center Development L.P. for 1,200 parking spaces in garages at 215 Commerce St. and 400 Jones St., and a 60-day extension with Cousins Properties, owners of the garage at 777 Main St. for 700 spaces for Bass Hall patrons. The two leases were the first entered into by the Downtown TIF in 1999.

Neither Josh Pirtle, vice president of asset management with Cousins Properties, nor Barry Lohr, Sundance Square’s director of parking services, could be reached for comment Friday.

The board will also consider new terms for the Sundance Square-owned Chase Bank Garage at 420 Throckmorton St., even though that lease doesn’t expire until the end of 2017. Free parking in that garage is extended to library patrons during the day.

The leases were scheduled to expire in August, but after some public outcry that doing away with free parking would hurt downtown businesses and entertainment venues, and in particular Bass Hall, the TIF board agreed to renegotiate leases with the caveat that they wouldn’t be as lucrative as the initial terms.

The TIF established the parking leases several years ago to attract people to downtown, but they were not designed to last more than 15 years. The TIF will expire 2023.

A year ago, the TIF renewed its lease with Tarrant County for free parking at its garage at the Family Law Center, but at much lower terms. It was the first garage lease to be renewed at rates more favorable to taxpayers. If Sundance Square or Cousins Properties receives better terms, the county will automatically be offered the better deal.

The Downtown TIF also has leases with the owners of the City Place parking garage at Taylor and Weatherford streets, and The Tower at Fifth and Taylor streets. Those expire in 2018 and 2016, respectively.

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