Vancouver starts parking lot pull-out

City lost almost $2 million last year leasing off-street facilities

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Vancouver’s Parking Garages and Lots

Here’s a rundown of how much each lot earned or lost in 2011, factoring in revenue, debt, leases and depreciation, and operational and administrative costs.

Smith Tower Surface Lot (Fifth and Washington streets): earned $6,954.

Evergreen Surface Lot (Evergreen Boulevard and Broadway): lost $7,653.

West Coast Bank Garage (Fifth and Main streets): lost $279,390.

City Hall Garage (C Street and Mill Plain Boulevard): earned $48,979.

Main Place Garage (12th and Main streets): lost $128,427.

Riverview Tower Garage (Columbia and Ninth streets): lost $51,460.

Broadway Surface Lot (Broadway and 11th Street): earned $10,147.

CVTV Surface Lot (Mill Plain Boulevard): earned $3,100.

Washington Surface Lot (Washington and West Third streets): earned $5,374.

Vancouvercenter Garage (Sixth and Washington streets): lost $1.6 million.

Esther Short Building Surface Lot (Sixth and Esther Streets): earned $16,104.

Total loss: $1.97 million.

Source: City of Vancouver

Vancouver's parking garages and lots lost about $1.97 million last year, and this October the city will be getting out of one of its money-losing contracts.

The city plans to not renew a lease of 200 spots at the Riverview Tower Garage at Columbia and Ninth streets when it expires later this year. The city, which in turn has leased the spots for mostly monthly use, lost $51,460 there last year.

The move is one of the first in a long-term strategy Vancouver has to divest itself of its parking garages and lots, city Parking Services Manager Mike Merrill said.

At most off-street facilities, income from monthly reserved passes (which range from a high of $84 a month at Vancouvercenter and West Coast Bank to $34 a month for some senior parking) isn't covering costs.

And in an analysis completed last year, Portland-based consultant Rick Williams advised that Vancouver rid itself of most of its 1,767 off-street spaces.

"Given the financial performance of the system and the continuing need for general fund support to 'pencil' the overall system, it is prudent to evaluate specific facilities from the perspective of value and their role in supporting the city's purpose and intent for municipal parking in the downtown," Williams wrote.

Vancouver had entered into a 20-year lease for the spots at Riverview Tower — at a cost of $168,000 in 2011 — with MC Investments of Vancouver, Merrill said.

Now that the lease is up, the city council indicated last month that it wanted to let the Riverview Tower Garage spots go.

Like many of the city's off-street parking spots, the long term lease likely helped spur economic development at the time, Merrill said. He added that the agreements for Vancouvercenter and other garages and lots similarly played critical roles in striking a much-needed development deal.

"It was to stimulate development downtown, and of course it did," Merrill said. "Vancouvercenter and the area around the park all developed. I think it met its purpose from that period. Now we're in a different period of time."

Other diverstitures

But it's likely to be more difficult to off-load some of the city's more costly garages, like the Vancouvercenter lot at Sixth and Washington streets, or the West Coast Bank Garage at Fifth and Main streets.

The city pays the debt costs on those structures from money that could be used for public safety or parks.

"We haven't had any offers to buy recently," Merrill said. "(Williams') report indicates that there's just no value for those garages based on current economy."

Merrill said in the future, the city may be able to sell off blocks of parking at Vancouvercenter.

In the meantime, the garage at the former City Hall at C Street and Mill Plain Boulevard (both marginal moneymakers), are off the books now that local government has decamped to consolidated spaces at 415 W. Sixth St.

Vancouver has added 37 short-term parking spaces at its Esther Short Building while it attempts to lease or sell the C Street property.

Finally, plans for the construction of the Columbia River Crossing project -- now set to begin in 2014 -- would claim city-owned lots at Smith Tower and at Washington and West Third streets, Merrill said. Together, those two surface lots turned just over $12,000 in profit in 2011.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.