Greensboro parking deck insanity

A while back I wrote a column for CJ about the political implications of parking decks in downtown Greensboro. Who knew parking decks –of all things—could create such political shockwaves?

That was nothing compared to this week’s Gboro parking deck headlines. Let’s get the easy stuff out the way first—the City Council voted 8-0 to settle a lawsuit brought by a downtown entertainment venue over an easement the city says it needs to build a $30 million parking to deck to accommodate a proposed Westin Hotel. That news a few days after the city ham-handedly released a report justifying the new parking deck —by the engineering firm that’s designing the new parking deck.

It gets better—right on the heels of that news we learn the city has decided to back out of the other downtown parking deck–the so-called “non-controversial” project proposed by high-powered developer Roy Carroll:

Carroll Companies owner Roy Carroll received a call from Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan informing him that the deal to build the parking deck at Bellemeade and Eugene streets was off and that the city would build a parking deck on Commerce Place instead.

Carroll, who owns this newspaper, said, “I was about as shocked as I could be to receive the mayor’s call yesterday that they were going to a plan B.”

He added, “We stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the city’s departure from good faith negotiations over the deck that the city authorized us to design. Our company has extensive man-hours invested and we have given notice to tenants we have on our parking lot due to the city’s pressing us to move forward on this project.”

Carroll also questioned the wisdom of building a free-standing deck instead of following what had been the City Council policy to only build new parking decks as part of a larger downtown development project.

Carroll said, “To build a free-standing 25 to 30 million dollar parking deck to support a single $15 million project is not good planning and I would be in opposition to any such deck regardless of where it’s built.”

I’m not suggesting anyone shed tears for Roy Carroll—he’ll be OK—but this is still another ham-handed move by the city. The deal for both decks was signed off on only in December and now the city –of all people—who is taking seemingly forever to even get steel on the site of the proposed downtown performing arts–is pulling out of project because the developer is dragging its heels?

Here’s the other angle–the city justified borrowing the $30 million for Carroll’s deck by stating it would be repaid through parking fees and tax revenue from the development above and below the deck. Now the city’s spending $30 million on a free-standing deck with no development—seems to me revenues to pay back the debt are going to come up a bit short.

Insanity–all over parking decks.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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