The city of Hartford says outsourcing its downtown parking assets could bring around $100 million and that it would be willing to let street parking tolls rise to attract an eager bidder.
A working group of city staff, led by city Chief Operating Officer David Panagore, last week estimated the economic value in a 50-year lease of the city’s 4,600 parking slots in three city garages, plus another 1,700 metered curbside spaces in the range of $80 million to $120 million.
“But $100 million is the magic number,’’ Panagore said following a public update last week on the city’s parking privatization initiative. “We’ve tried to design a proposal that puts us in that sweet spot.’’
City officials say the aim of privatizing parking operations is to maximize parking revenues and stabilize the city finances in the short term while providing a platform for sustainable economic growth over the long-term.
He and other officials stressed things are still in the exploratory stages and that nothing has yet been set in stone. However, Panagore said city staff continues to hash out details of a possible outsourcing plan with the Hartford Parking Authority, which oversees the city’s parking assets.
He added that the city may go before City Council around the start of next year with a request to formally test the waters by putting the parking concession out to bid.
To make its parking more attractive to bidders, the staff group recommends the city allow its curbside parking tolls to climb 50 percent, to $1.50 an hour, six months after signing any deal consolidating its parking into private hands, then hit $2 in the fifth year of the contract.
Raising rates also would bring Hartford’s metered parking in line with other cities, including New Haven, which charges $1.50 hourly to park curbside, Panagore said.
Higher rates also would generate more turnover of curbside spaces as well as make it more cost effective for long-term parkers to seek refuge in the city’s public or private garages, Panagore said.
Panagore said the proposed contract would contain braking mechanisms to keep rates from rising too fast.
To avoid meter shock in Hartford, the work group urges a provision in the city’s concession contract to let metered street parking rise 50 cents, to $1.50 hourly, six months after the deal, then climb another 50 cents, to $2, at the start of the fifth year.
After that, any increases in metered parking rates would be linked to the rate of inflation, and could only rise in 25-cent increments with approval from the Hartford Parking Authority, officials said.
In addition, once every five years, the concessionaire would survey parking rates in markets comparable to Hartford to determine whether its local tolls are competitive, according to the work group’s public presentation.
Also, special-event parking rates at the city’s garages would be limited to a maximum $15. It is currently $10 at all three of the city’s garages.