Hartford eyes $100M to outsource parking

After inventorying Hartford's parking assets and crunching the numbers, a parking task force says $100 million is the "magic number'' that could prompt the city to hand its 6,300 covered and metered parking spaces over to a private operator for the next 50 years.
Meanwhile, the list of potential concessionaires is down to four from six, with Hartford's LAZ Parking and ProPark still among the players.

"We've tried to design a proposal that puts us in that sweet spot,'' Hartford Chief Operating Officer Dave Panagore said of the ideal upfront concession payment following a public update Tuesday night on the task force's parking privatization initiative.

The task force has spent the past six months analyzing the potential ups and downs of handing its parking over to a long-term operator in exchange for an upfront payment.

"This is an ongoing piece of work,'' Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said to open the briefing.

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.

Panagore said the panel, which includes the Hartford Parking Authority, used as a baseline the city's best year for parking income, 2007-2008 when it netted $3.9 million. From there, they assumed an 8 percent annual return on the parking assets and a 3 percent annual increase in parking revenue.

Also factored in, said Nathan Flynn of William Blair & Co., the city's parking-privatization adviser, was that $30 million in outstanding debt on the Morgan Street Garage would be extinguished on the day a deal is signed, and that the concessionaire would commit to $100 million in improvements over the life of the deal.

Based on those factors, the panel estimates the economic potential to the city of its parking assets over the next half century at between $80 million and $120 million, officials said. Panagore said the city would consider any reasonable offer within that range.

"But $100 million is the magic number,'' Panagore said.

Tuesday's 90-minute presentation to an audience of about 25 city business and local leaders and residents at the Hartford Public Library was a dry run for a scheduled presentation Thursday to the Hartford Parking Authority board in executive session.

HPA Chairwoman Patricia LeShane and CEO Mark McGovern were in Tuesday's audience.

Sometime around the first of next year, the task force may approach City Council for formal approval to put the parking concession out to bid, Panagore said.

In response to several citizens' concerns that the city will squander the upfront payment, Panagore said the panel proposes the balance, after debt is retired, be placed into an irrevocable trust that would have very strict covenants as to how, when and for what purpose the city could tap the principal and interest.
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