Patrons should be able to experience the same parking benefits made possible by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing District garages regardless of the part of downtown where they park.
Unfortunately, they cannot.
Four out of five parking garages have received reasonable lease extensions while The Tower garage in the west quadrant of downtown has not, despite a year of good-faith negotiations with TIF staff.
Curiously, those renewed leases represent only Sundance Square interests.
We, the owners of the commercial component of The Tower, want to congratulate Fort Worth on its successes in the redevelopment of a vibrant downtown.
When we invested in this mixed-use development, we embraced what we were told is the “Fort Worth Way” of mutual support in business and community endeavors.
While Sundance Square’s vibrancy is unparalleled, we believe that the free parking in the Tower garage contributes to downtown’s overall appeal.
The TIF has been a positive force in building on downtown’s master plan.
By reimbursing garage owners so that downtown patrons can park free at night, on weekends and during business hours, the TIF encourages people to experience the full offering, whether it’s exceptional entertainment, dining and retail shopping or convenient access to businesses.
We understood that TIF-supported parking would be gradually phased out and lease terms would change.
But we were shocked that reductions would be at the expense of owners like us, for the benefit of Sundance Square.
In 2015, the 777 Main Street Garage saw its reimbursement cut by 52 percent.
In our negotiations with TIF staff, in the spirit of cooperation, we offered to cut our reimbursement 80 percent. Yet, the TIF wants a 98 percent reduction.
TIF staff won’t explain the imbalance, only saying its November 2016 offer is final.
The businesses in west downtown value the free weekend and night parking, as well as the free hour on weekdays.
These include Salsa Limon, Potbelly, Origins Bank, Randstad and Title Boxing.
In a letter to the TIF board, Salsa Limon owner Ramiro Ramirez summarized his position: “This parking access is critical to the continued success of our business … We fear a substantial impact on sales, especially considering (our) building’s distance from other public parking spaces.”
Our repeated requests to appear before the TIF board have been ignored by TIF staff and TIF leadership.
The board is made up of representatives of various taxing jurisdictions participating in the TIF as well as the CEO of Sundance Square, who represents the “private” sector, we presume.
We question why our parking proposal has not been presented to the board.
The board has not met since October, though our numerous requests to explain our position in an official public board meeting have been ignored.
It seems that a public entity, distributing public dollars, should be transparent in all matters and provide opportunities for public comment and allow for all board members to voice their opinions.
What is the “Fort Worth Way”?
We think it is one of cooperation, collaboration and mutual respect.
From our year-long discussion with TIF staff, we are left with the lasting impression that only one business interest should benefit from the TIF dollars.
Ironically our building received its original lease while controlled by Sundance Square, but now we are facing a 98 percent reduction for providing that same service of 300 free evening, weekend and one-hour weekday spaces.
To show our commitment to downtown, and while negotiating in good faith, we are continuing to offer free parking even though our contract with the TIF has expired.
Additionally, we’ve offered to provide free valet parking in west downtown at our expense, once the contract is renewed at a fair rate.
We remain a partner with the city of Fort Worth in continuing to grow downtown, and we are offering space in our buildings for the city’s use for development initiatives without charge.
We hope that in our embracing of the “Fort Worth Way,” the TIF leadership will as well.
A thriving downtown is in the interest of all of us.
Evan Farahnik is a partner in Beverly Hills-based StarPoint Properties, owner of the parking garage and street-level retail space at The Tower condo building in downtown Fort Worth.