Posts about Municipal Parking
Montgomery County just spent millions to build a new parking garage in Silver Spring. Just one block away, another garage is so underused that the county wants to hand half of it over to the Discovery Channel for pennies on the dollar.
The 592-space Kennett Street garage in south Silver Spring sits mostly empty. Montgomery's Leggett administration has just proposed leasing 300 of its spaces to Discovery for the cable company's nearby offices. The proposed deal would give Discovery exclusive use of the spaces for 13 years at an annual rate of $240,000, or just $800 per space per year.
Only a few weeks ago, a 152-space public garage opened around the corner on 13th Street. The cost of this garage is difficult to estimate because it was part of a package deal that also built affordable housing, but a garage under a similar mixed use project in Bethesda cost $64,000 per space.
The $800 per space per year that Discovery would pay won't even cover the interest on a $64,000 parking space.
So many things are wrong with this deal that it's hard to list them all. It's an unnecessary giveaway to a prosperous private company that has already received millions from the county. 300 parking spaces currently open to the public will be fenced off and unavailable to others. And everyone will suffer from the traffic and pollution that subsidized employee parking creates.
Meanwhile, neighbors who park in the Kennett Street garage are upset because they will soon be charged double what Discovery would pay.
Public parking is out of control in Montgomery County. It's heavily subsidized by taxpayers; the bonds sold to build garages in Silver Spring are paid off out of the county's general fund. Yet the county went to the expense of building a new parking garage when an existing garage one block away is full of empty spaces.
When Montgomery can't find anything better to do with its garages than give them away, it's a strong signal that it's time to stop building new ones. In a county desperately short of affordable housing for people, affordable housing for automobiles does not deserve to be a priority. Parking should pay for itself in Bethesda and Silver Spring.
What do you do with vacant land whose developments stall in an economic recession? One option is to turn all empty space into paid parking lots, which generates revenue but brings traffic and little benefit to communities. The other is to find interim uses that serve people rather than cars, also known as "temporary urbanism."
In 2008, the District closed the Bruce-Monroe Elementary school in Park View, with plans to demolish the school and solicit developers to build new mixed-use buildings and a new school.
Unfortunately, with the economic downturn, no developers were interested, and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development started planning a parking lot by default.
They divided the 120,000 square foot site into 8 areas, each of which could accommodate a different use. The 3 areas adjacent to Georgia Avenue are zoned commercial (C-2-A) and could accommodate profit-making interim uses such as farmers markets, while those are not allowed in the rest of the site, zoned residential (R-4).
OP listed four primary functions available for the site:
- Arts: public sculpture, outdoor concerts, an art walk
- Recreation: basketball, volleyball, mini golf, skate park, climbing sculptures
- Education & Community: open air markets, mobile workshops
- Open space
Community members received dots of four colors, one per category, to place on the portions of the site where they wanted to see those uses. OP would identify functions the community deemed paramount, and then decide the specific uses at a future time.
Attendees could also tell early on that temporary urbanism was not going to be the only focus of the meeting.
They were angry, they were frustrated, and they were vocal. They made it clear that an interim use of the site is unacceptable. They want a school, and they want it by 2011.
A cacophony of chanting broke out time and again, frequently being "Build our school." Early attempts to start talking about the interim use of the site were disrupted by frustrated attendees that wanted to see the school move forward. While eventually Ward 1 Community Planner Tarek Bolden was able to make his presentation, it was an uneasy peace that allowed him to move forward.
While it is easy to understand where the representatives of the school are coming from, it was frustrating to hear the District representatives questioned on why a school hasn't started to be built when charter schools are moving forward and a new CVS is being constructed
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