Seven groups cleared to seek city parking garage leases

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposal to lease parking garages and meters has entered a new phase with the city's announcement that seven firms and teams have been deemed qualified to compete for the project.
The list includes J.P. Morgan Investment Management Inc.; Cintra, a leader in the Spanish parking market and one of two firms operating the Chicago Skyway toll road under a 99-year lease; and Carlyle Infrastructure Partners, whose interests include recycling, rail and port operations and operation of Connecticut highway plazas.

At least two companies already have operations in Pittsburgh. A third has done work for Pittsburgh Parking Authority. A fourth manages a meter-privatization initiative in Chicago criticized by many residents there.

In all, 11 firms and teams responded to the city's "request for qualifications" by the March 19 deadline. The city concluded that seven had the financial and operational wherewithal to compete for a long-term lease.

"We believe the expertise of these parking operators and financial strength of the qualified parties will result in a highly successful outcome for the city and its residents," Scott Kunka, city finance director, pension fund executive director and parking authority chairman, said in a statement.

J.P. Morgan and Cintra included no partners in their respective applications.

In most cases, financial firms and parking management companies teamed up to respond to the request for qualifications. For example, Carlyle's partners are Standard Parking, a Chicago-based company that operates parking for office buildings, retail centers, athletic complexes and airports, among other clients, and Serco Group, a global management company with U.S. operations based in Virginia.

Now, the seven qualified firms and teams will have an opportunity to analyze the assets offered for long-term lease -- about 9,000 spaces in 11 parking garages and about 9,000 metered spaces along streets and in lots. Then, they'll have the opportunity to give feedback to the city and respond to the city's formal "request for proposals," a document that will set forth the city's expectations for a long-term lease and ask for offers.

The city said it expects to issue the RFP in June and set a July deadline for submission of proposals. The firm or team awarded the lease would have to make capital improvements, operate the garages and meters and, officials have said, comply with rate caps imposed by city leaders.

In January 2009, Mr. Ravenstahl proposed privatization of parking assets in hope of netting at least $200 million for the city pension fund. The fund's value is only one-third of what's needed to cover long-term obligations, and the state has warned that it may take it over unless changes are made.

Still, City Council members have expressed reservations about the mayor's plan.

Besides J.P. Morgan, Cintra and the Carlyle team, the following were deemed qualified to compete for the lease:

-- ACS, a Xerox company, of Dallas; Alinda Capital Partners of New York and London; and InterPark, a Chicago-based company that says it manages more than 250 parking facilities nationwide. ACS said it already has about 350 employees in Pittsburgh, at least some of whom perform information-technology work for private clients. InterPark has an office in Downtown Pittsburgh but could not be reached for comment about its operations here.

Duncan provides parking meters, enforcement tools, citation processing and other products and services. Among other "success stories" listed on its Web site, the company said it developed ticket-management, boot-and-tow and other services for Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

P4 Partners also was listed as part of the LambdaStar team. No information on that firm was immediately available.
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