Wireless change kills parking project
Parking commissioners decided not to go ahead with a previously planned small expansion of the city-owned lot in the West Fulton Business District, as the revenue source that would have paid for the work and would have given Parking Services a steady income stream has disappeared.
Parking Services bought two small parcels near the small lot at Fulton Street and Straight Avenue on the city’s northwest side for a tower that was to have been part of the WiMax wireless Internet provider system that Clearwire is building in the city. The vacant properties cost the department $55,000. Parking Services planned to lease space on the tower to communications firms and expected to gross between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in rent.
But Clearwire said it doesn’t need to put up the tower now. The firm told city officials that recent technological advances in the WiMax system has lessened the number of towers it needs to provide coverage throughout the city.
“It looks like the tower has gone away and we’ve lost the revenue stream,” said Mitch Schutter, parking facility supervisor for Parking Services. “We had some assurances that we had a tower, but that’s not the case now.”
West Fulton business owners weren’t overly pleased with having a tower in the middle of their district when they first heard of the plan, but after Parking Services offered to expand the lot, they felt better about the tower going up. The lot is the district’s main source of public parking and customers use it on a regular basis, often filling all the spaces. Expanding the lot would have added eight spaces and would have cost Parking Services $103,366, or nearly $13,000 per space. Due to the project’s cost and the loss of the revenue stream, commissioners decide to set the lot’s expansion work aside for now.
“Without the revenue, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Parking Commissioner Gerald Schildroth.
Parking Services recently added a small lot on Market Avenue to its downtown system. The Michigan Department of Transportation owns the 60-space lot at 201 Market Ave. SW, which was used by city employees but is now vacant. The lot is on the site that was commonly known as the city’s Public Works Island, a location the city marketed for sale four years ago.
Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema said the public can park there now, but only if they’re registered with ParkMobile. ParkMobile is the cell phone and Internet payment system used by the city. Weekday daytime parking until 5 p.m. is $2 a day and the lot’s monthly rate is $25. There isn’t a charge for nighttime and weekend parking unless an event is being held at Van Andel Arena. Event parking is $5.
Ritsema said total gross revenue to Parking Services was down by 4.6 percent for the just-completed fiscal year from the previous year. Gross revenue was $11.2 million for FY2010, which was off by $538,000 from FY2009. Income from monthly parking was down by 13.4 percent, while event parking was off by 11.6 percent. Revenue from daily parking was up by 25 percent.