51 Biltmore: The cost is too high

With respect to Casey Carmichael’s letter in the Jan. 19 Mountain Xpress [“Imagine Downtown Without Public Interest Projects], I agree without reservation that Public Interests Projects has done a fine job in leading the downtown revitalization. Without their efforts, downtown would look like it did 20 or 30 years ago and growth, along with its related opportunity (and related problems) wouldn’t have been nearly as significant. The 51 Biltmore project will further improve downtown.

The only issue I take with the 51 Biltmore project is the parking plan. I know that there are some who object to the parking plan based on environmental concerns and certainly those concerns are valid. While I sympathize, convenient parking is necessary in order to maximize the number of residents and tourists who go downtown, and to achieve the maximum financial benefit for the city. What I object to is the cost of the parking … especially when there are other close-in options that I believe have not been seriously considered.

City Council has an obligation to all residents (yes, even those of us who live in the ‘burbs) to spend money as efficiently as possible. If Bothwell is correct, that the city will be spending four times as much for a parking space at 51 Biltmore vs. the cost of a space in the College Street garage, I have to wonder if the price of the 51 Biltmore parking is excessive. I implore City Council to investigate alternatives. For example, can the College Street garage be expanded in a cost-effective manner? Can the new garage planned for the new Performance Arts Center be built larger at lower incremental cost than parking at 51 Biltmore? Both of these options are in my opinion in close enough proximity to 51 Biltmore so as to serve the area effectively. Are there other options, say on South Lexington?

I hope that City Council will study the parking issue further, look at all available options and do what makes the most financial sense to serve the parking needs of “lower” Biltmore.

— Bob Ganz

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4 thoughts on “51 Biltmore: The cost is too high

  1. indy499

    You can be sure that Cecil “I want a trolley” Bothwell is wrong about the relative cost of the new parking structure, given a fair accounting and not a series of sound bites.

  2. In regard to fair accounting, a friend pointed out to me that all the numbers we’ve been shown about the estimated profit in parking revenues over 50 years fail to account for inflation.

    Using the U.S. government’s inflation calculator for the past 50 years as a gauge, it’s reasonable to estimate that the $26 million estimated gain will be worth less than $4 million in 2011 dollars.

    As I’ve noted repeatedly during the debate on this matter, in the end one can make the dollars say whatever one likes, depending on assumptions. So the real questions involve community values.

  3. Oh, and a point of clarification. I noted that the cost per NET NEW parking space was 4 times the price of the County deck. Then, two days before the Council meeting, new numbers came out on the County deck, which (by the same calculation) made the NET NEW spaces 3 times the price.

    One of the worst aspects of the endgame debate was the inconstancy of financial reporting. All of the numbers I saw, from both sides, had basis in fact (though sometimes they were cherry-picked), but the basic numbers we received from Staff shifted.

    For example, last summer, when I wrote an Xpress commentary on the matter, we’d been told the total was $14.8 million, later $14.6 (as I recall). By the end of the year the estimate was $14.1. But the loan calculation shows the City basing it’s eventual bond on $15.5 million.

    It is lamentable that a project this expensive can’t be more clearly elucidated for the citizens, no matter which side of the discussion they might take. Council was supposed to vote on this on Jan. 11, but we were getting new financial information as late as Jan. 23. And I don’t think we’ve actually heard the last of it.

  4. indy499

    Cecil, Cecil, Cecil. I know you’re not a financial analyst and I’m certainly not one either, but won’t the $ the city pays back over time be lower valued $ due to inflation as well? Don’t think you can just apply an inflation factor to the net and conclude it is less valuable than reported.

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