RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond city leaders are looking for new ways to get you to drive into the downtown parking decks. That's because the city has to cough up nearly $2-million to pay back debt from under-performing parking areas.
Earlier this decade the city's Broad Street Community Development Authority borrowed $67-million for significant improvements to the Broad Street redevelopment area. The money was used to remove the 6th Street Market Place, to demolish old buildings, to create surface parking, and to renovate three nearby decks.
"The CDA has been a thorn in our side every since I crossed the council threshold," said City Council man Bruce Tyler.
Tyler believes the authority was operating under the belief: Build it and they will come.
"The CDA, I think, got out in front of the actual construction in the area and that resulted in money being spent and the revenue projections on parking were low," he said.
CenterStage is now open. So is Miller and Rhoads. The federal courthouse moved into the neighborhood last year; all places that could generate more use, but not soon enough.
In June the CDA owes $3-million to the bank, but doesn't have the money to pay the bill. Which means the city will owe $1.6 million.
"Under a perfect scenario the parking would be enough to cover the debt service, unfortunately the debt service is going to ramp up over the course of the next 3 or 4 years," said Marcus Jones, Richmond Deputy Chief Officer of Finance.
This is why leaders want to refinance the debt. It could save the city $30-million over the next two decades. Leaders are working on ways to get cars into the decks and lots.
"Having foot traffic, having events, having anything that attracts individuals downtown is helpful," said Jones.
The mayor says taking action now will protect the city's bond rating which could lower the cost to the city for borrowing more money for other projects in the future.