The prospective developers of Judge Doyle Square are looking to tap not only tax incremental financing revenue, but parking utility funds. At the level requested, the project would seriously deplete the city's parking utility reserve fund, leaving it strapped for cash for future projects.
The 55-year-old Government East ramp -- which is part of the Judge Doyle Square project -- has 516 spaces. It is the oldest of the city's six ramps and in bad condition. City officials are using its replacement as a chance to leverage private development on the two-block site.
The two developers pitching Judge Doyle Square proposals to the city both would create a mix of parking, with some spaces controlled by the city and others used for the hotel and residential components. They're both looking to the parking utility to fund these costs.
The utility currently has $19.6 million in reserves and would like to have $20.8 million in 2023, when other garages need to be replaced.
Texas-based Journeyman proposes building 1,275 parking spaces, using $28 million of parking utility money. This proposal includes 598 spaces that would be operated by the city. It would leave the parking utility with $11.6 million in reserves in 2023.
The rival developer, JDS Group, proposes building 911 spaces and using $26 million from the parking utility, leaving the utility $6.7 million in reserves. JDS's parking costs are lower because the plan calls for the parking to be above ground, rather than under. The city would get 514 spaces in this proposal. JDS would use parking utility money to construct both the public and private spaces, while Journeyman proposes a combination of utility money and tax incremental financing.
If the utility were to rebuild Government East on its own, it would construct 600 spaces for about $18 million and have $20.8 million in reserves by 2023.
Will the project lead Madison to hike its parking rates to help pay for the cost? Thomas Woznick, the city's parking operations manager, hopes not.
"We certainly could increase rates, but one of our core objectives is to maintain the vitality of downtown by keeping rates affordable," he says. "Jacking up rates doesn't meet that objective."
The city raises parking rates roughly every three years. Its last increase was June 1, 2012.
"What's uniquely different here is it's parking revenue bonds paying for both public parking and associated private parking," Woznick says. "We can't afford to pay for stalls that aren't public spaces and there's no revenue generated."
As a way to avoid draining the utility's reserve fund, city officials are contemplating using more TIF to pay for Judge Doyle Square.
Ald. David Ahrens, a critic of the project, fears the proposals will inevitably force the city to hike rates.
"The parking utility can't just say we're broke now, we can't build anything. They're going to have to raise the rates," he says. "That's a huge hit for workers, property owners, visitors and everybody else."