UPDATE 1/16 9:30pm: NextPortland blogger Iain MacKenzie posted on twitter that the Prosper Portland Board has decided to go forward with the office building addition, but without the added parking. This is a good decision by the board, let’s hope it sticks.
Prosper Portland is betting 32 million dollars on 442 stall car parking garage next to a light rail station and transit center, but that’s not enough exposure to the risky parking market for the agency. Plans recently surfaced to build more than 100 additional car parking stalls on top of the existing garage, ostensibly to support a 10 story office topper.
The agency, with a mission to “create economic growth and opportunity for Portland,” initially predicted the 442 stall garage under construction would net $500,000 a year in profits, but has since backed off those claims. Indeed, as car rental revenues at airports plummet, it seems less and less likely that visitors to Portland will choose to rent a car and pay high valet parking rates at the convention center hotel when they can take the MAX for $2.50 or take a ride-hailing service for 1/3 the cost of a day’s parking.
The project underway was a lynchpin to the complicated deal to build the 600 room Hyatt Regency hotel at the Oregon Convention Center. The financial risk of that garage was, apparently, worth the economic benefits to the region of the long-desired hotel project. It would seem that the hotel operator doesn’t consider the garage to be good investment, or they would have decided to build and manage the garage themselves.
The soon-to-be parking garage is designed to accommodate a structure like the proposed office tower on top, which is a defensible investment. But doubling down on more parking (at ~$60,000 a stall) is a massive unforced error by the agency that seems to consider car parking the solution to all it’s woes, even though it’s clear that more parking supply undermines the cities climate and transportation goals.
A peculiar location for more parking
Literally steps from the parking garage is the Rose Quarter Transit Center, which hosts four MAX light rail lines, two frequent service bus lines, CTRAN connections to Vancouver, five other Trimet lines, and it’s a short walk from the Portland Streetcar (and more frequent service buses). The city owns two massive parking garages, containing more than 1000 stalls, just about a quarter mile from the new garage. These garages are currently under contract with Rip City Management, and remain largely vacant when the Blazers (or Elton John) aren’t playing at the Moda Center.
This area of town is very well served by transit and massive residential developments nearby at the Lloyd Center position the region to be a bustling and lively center for entertainment and commerce, easily enjoyable without a personal automobile.
Investment that should serve the city
Ultimately, this proposal should be an opportunity to debate the direction Prosper Portland is headed and whether the organization is focusing on the future of the city or it’s own cash flow.
If Portlanders were asked how $6,000,000 could be invested for “job creation, innovation and economic opportunity throughout Portland to create one of the world’s healthiest, most desirable and equitable cities” how many people would suggest a parking garage built on top of a parking garage in the middle of a transit center?
Prosper Portland has been linked to efforts to build commuter parking garages in the Central Eastside Industrial District and in Old Town/Chinatown. In fact, the agency reportedly is managing a $57 million dollar “Investment and Parking” fund for the latter. If the agency was truly interested in innovative investments in transporting workers and customers to Old Town/Chinatown then that money could fund almost all of the ambitious Central City In Motion multimodal project.
How can you get involved
Prosper Portland is a quasi-governmental agency, their board and budget require city approval. The agency is in Mayor Ted Wheeler’s portfolio; concerned citizens can contact his office at MayorWheeler@portlandoregon.gov.
Prosper Portland meets monthly at 222 SW 5th Ave in Portland. The next board meeting is on February 13th at 6pm. Public comment is available by a signup sheet.