Thursday, June 16, 2011

Broad Ripple Parking Deal Partner Paid By City To Prepare Parking Study

A company that is part of a partnership that was awarded $6.35 million in taxpayer dollars by Mayor Greg Ballard to develop a $15 million parking/retail structure for Broad Ripple Village was hired by the City of Indianapolis' Bond Bank in 2007 to prepare a parking study. The findings of a study prepared by Walker Parking Consultants actually undermines the arguments the Ballard administration presented earlier this week in explaining why taxpayers would be funding 42% of the privately-developed project. In announcing the deal, Mayor Ballard, City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn and Village board member Tom Healy touted the deal:

"Broad Ripple Village has long needed a garage of this magnitude to alleviate parking issues and allow for implementation of a residential parking permit system on neighborhood streets," said Mayor Ballard. "Visitors to the Broad Ripple area will have a safe, secure, well-lit area to park their cars, while residents and their guests will more easily be able to find on-street parking near their homes."
"The City of Indianapolis received several proposals for this project and found this proposal offered the best solution to address the Broad Ripple Village's needs for daily and monthly parking," said Council President Vaughn. "We have worked with the Broad Ripple Village Association and other partners over several years to arrive at a plan that offers great retail space that will be an additional amenity for the community."
"This high-performance mixed-use structure will transform an eyesore into an asset and stimulate much-needed infrastructure improvements," said Broad Ripple Village Association Board Member Tom Healy. "We look forward to working with the developers and the City to create a dynamic Village gateway."
Walker's 2007 study actually criticized the proposed site of the parking/retail structure in recommending the construction of a parking garage to address parking issues in Broad Ripple Village. Surprisingly, the study found that there was no shortage of parking in the Village. What it found was that within a relatively small portion of the Village at some peak times demand for parking forced visitors to walk less than ideal distances to their destination after finding a suitable parking space. Pat Andrews succinctly summarizes that finding at her blog, "Had Enough Indy?":

PARKING SUPPLY - the study concluded that of the 40 blocks of Broad Ripple Village, parking was adequate for almost all areas, at most times of the day, night, and week, in 2007 and as projected into the future. There were 16 blocks that were shown to exceed 85% capacity at 11 pm on weekends. A particular 6 block area was calculated to have a deficit of 132 parking spaces at 11 pm on weekends (adequate at all other times) and projected to have a deficit of 180 parking spaces at 11 pm on weekends in the future.
The Walker study suggested a parking structure in the area of the proposed site to address the shortage of parking spaces during the peak period of demand for the heart of the entertainment area within the Village. Walker preferred a parking garage be built behind the Vogue, although it acknowledged the site chosen for this week's announcement at the corner of College and Broad Ripple Avenues as an alternative site. The report explains why it preferred a parking garage of approximately the same size as being proposed today at the site behind the Vogue nightclub:

Site A is an odd-shaped corner parcel that once served as an active gas station. This site is currently blocked off and not used as for any particular purpose. The location is less than ideal for parking, as patrons would have to cross College Avenue to reach the main entertainment area of Broad Ripple, and the odd shape does not provide the most efficient area to layout a parking. We estimate 102 spaces could fit on the site based on 400 square feet per space. The site measurement and assumptions are shown in Figure 7. Because this site does not provide sufficient space, and is most likely not the best use for this prime location, we do not recommend developing permanent parking on this site.
Site B is located in the parking lot behind the Vogue nightclub and west of Carrollton Avenue. The dimensions of the potential parking structure are 125’ x 216’. Based on 360 square feet per space, we estimate 75 spaces per level could be added on this site. The site measurement and assumptions are shown in Figure 8. The site would displace about 95 existing spaces. A four level parking structure with 300 spaces would effectively add about 205 spaces due to the displacement of existing surface spaces. The structure would have a height of about 48 feet for elevator and stair towers.
That's not all that is troubling. The study suggested a parking garage of this size would cost approximately $4.5 million excluding land acquisition and demolition costs as opposed to the $15 million structure being proposed today. Andrews summarizes:
COST OF CONSTRUCTION - the study noted the rising cost of concrete and cost of construction of parking garages over the previous 4 years, rising about 17% over that time span. They concluded that it would cost $4.5 million to construct a 4 story, 300 space, parking garage. They note that additional spaces would cost $21,878 per space. Using that figure, a 350 space garage would come to $5.6 million - not including acquisition of land or demolition costs.
Pat Andrews' research also uncovered the fact that the owner of one of the lots being used for the project is owned by an entity known as "6286, LLC." The agent for this entity is listed as J. Todd Morris, who coincidentally is listed as the "Parking Manager" for Newport Parking, one of the partners in the city-awarded deal headed by Keystone Construction, which is owned by a large Ballard campaign contributor, Ersal Ozdemir, who employs Ballard's former chief of staff, Paul Okeson.

What is particularly bothersome is the City's refusal to produce to the public the construction and operational costs each bidder was required to submit in response to the City's Request for Qualifications for the project. "My request was denied with the citation of an Indiana State statute that trade secrets may be held from public disclosure laws," Andrews writes. "I will, of course, take this up with the Indiana Public Access Counselor's office later this morning," she adds. The public must demand this information. It's total bullshit for the Ballard administration to withhold this information when it expects taxpayers to finance 42% of these private developers' project. What's really sad is that it takes bloggers to request this information because the media in this town could give a damn less. They can only repeat verbatim the talking points of the self-serving proponents of this deal and editorialize in favor of it.

I also heard nothing in the media to suggest there were any competing proposals considered by the City. Is this like so many of the bidding opportunities in this state and city where the word leaks out on the street well in advance who has the inside track on the bid so nobody else wastes their time submitting proposals? It's all about Pay To Play. I'm telling you that there is no better place in America to do business if you are a crook. Our politicians are all for sale, and there is absolutely nobody but the foxes guarding the hen house. To hell with Chicago. C'mon down to Indy where the red carpet is rolled out for every sleazebag willing to stuff the politicians' pockets with money. 
UPDATE: WRTV's Kara Kenney had a good report during the 6:00 p.m. newscast Friday night examining the deal from the standpoint of taxpayers, which included interviews with Democratic council candidate Zach Adamson and me. Kenney hit on the Walker study's findings, the gift of more than $6 million to the private developers without any financial return to taxpayers and the mayor's ties to the lead developer, Ersal Ozdemir of Keystone Construction. She pointed out Ozdemir had contributed more than $25,000 to Ballard's campaign committee and hired the mayor's former chief of staff, Paul Okeson, in a top position with his firm. I'll provide a link to the story when it's made available on WRTV's website.
Here is the text of Kenney's story on WRTV. The video can be viewed here.
A $15 million plan for a mixed-use parking garage in Broad Ripple raised questions among some community members who said private interests were being put before the public.

Taxpayers will be expected to foot the bill for $6.35 million of the project at the southwest corner of Broad Ripple and College avenues, but won't they share in any of the parking revenues generated from the garage, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

Gary Welsh, an attorney and political blogger, said that taxpayers should get a cut of the million-dollar investment.

"The city's not going to get any return on that investment in terms of a share of the proceeds and has no ownership," Welsh said. "The city should have used that money to own and operate its own parking garage and return those benefits back to the public at large."

Zach Adamson, a candidate for city-county council, agreed.

"I do think if the taxpayers are footing the bill we should get at least a portion of those revenues to benefit the taxpayers," Adamson said.

6News found a 2007 study by Walker Parking Consultants that called the site "less than ideal for parking, as patrons would have to cross College Avenue to reach the main entertainment area of Broad Ripple."

The Walker study suggested a parking lot behind the Vogue nightclub and west of Carrollton as a better option.

Records show Keystone Group LLC, the developer selected to build the garage, donated at least $28,000 to Mayor Greg Ballardin 2008.

"It doesn't pass the smell test when you have someone who has given that much money to the mayor," Welsh said.

6News also learned Paul Okeson, Ballard's former chief of staff, is the vice president of business development for Keystone.

The city chose Keystone Group LLC, Walker Parking Consultants, Keystone Construction Corp., Newpoint Parking and RATIO Architects as the winning bid out of seven proposals.

Ballard was out of town on Friday, so 6News' Kara Kenney met with spokesman Marc Lotter, who said money and connections had nothing to do with the winning bid.

"Absolutely not," Lotter said. "They were evaluated by a community group. Of the seven proposals, you look at this one and it required the least amount of public dollars and did not require a tax abatement."

Lotter explained that a public-private partnership is in the best interest of taxpayers because private companies will assume the risk for the new parking garage.

"This is a project that's been talked about in Broad Ripple for more than 30 years and has not been able to get off the ground because of the financial burden," Lotter said.

Lotter also said the new parking garage will contain retail, which means it needs to be near foot traffic.

"It's my understanding the (Walker) study in 2007 was looking at a parking garage only," Lotter said.

Even though the city won't share in the revenues generated from the garage, Lotter explained the city will maintain oversight over the parking rates charged to drivers.

The $6.35 million provided by the city will come from proceeds as part of the city's privatization of parking meters by ACS Parking, which must be used to fund infrastructure projects in the downtown, Mass Avenue and Broad Ripple areas.

Adamson works downtown and said he hopes the Broad Ripple parking garage and ACS deal are not a trend.

"I hope when they do parking structures downtown, we don't find ourselves in a similar deal," Adamson said. "That's my fear: we're seeing this pattern start to evolve."

A public hearing will be held July 19 at 7 p.m. at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 East 67th Street.

Construction on the new parking garage is scheduled to begin in the fall and wrap in 2012.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Terrific column Gary. You and Pat did a lot of work.

I just have doubts the private partners in this public-private venture are putting up a dime. I think they inflate the price to make it appear that the City was paying less than half of it when we're paying for 100% of it. The study in fact strongly suggests that's true.

CircleCityScribe said...


I don't know how you do it, but you are truly the equivalent of the St. Louis Star-Times in 2011!

Thank you! We need you.

Let's look at how a Marine Officer has corrupted a city:

1) Frank Straub (D) NY thinks making a kingdom for his royal megalomaiac self is paramount over the public safety and FAILED TO HIRE POLICE!

2) Wrecker Scandle the likes of DEMOCRATS in places like New York.

3) Broad Ripple Parking Development scandle..the likes of which are New York style.

4) Golf management contract scandle at the parks.

5) Paying city workers ON-DUTY with CITY VEHICLES to march/participate in a political event which advocates an unusual behavior in which morals were compromised by women wearing dildos and men with open-mouth kissing as well as drag queens, people wearing leather collars, etc expressing their political opinion and unusual behavior voiced.

6) Scandle with Rolls Royce.

7) Scandle and Frank Straub incompetence with an "ex-offender program" (which was a campaign issue).

8) Fuel co-pay scandle.

9) (My own favorite) Showing Ballard-Straub (D) are so similar to Chicago-style politics of Daley!!!

10) Exposed Goldsmiths role and impact on Ballard-Straub (D) NY!!!

Gary, you are an invaluable asset to the community!

Downtown Indy said...

They can inflate the cost to make it look like taxpayers pay a smaller fraction AND they can award the inflated bucks to their pals. It's a great scheme -- if you ignore the ethical aspects of it. And they don't seem to have any problems with that, ever.

Brizzonator said...

Wow there must be an awful lot of bad soil from the gas station. A prestrees concrete structure does not cost 15 million.

Contact Patrick Ehret he built the 212 space parking garage (4 1/2 story) at Villaggio at Page Pointe 435 Virginia Avenue. it is attached to the high end and beautiful condos. The condo parking garage is beautiful.

Patrick and the Page family should be building the garage in Broad Ripple. They could do it for a third of the 15 mill.

Citizen Kane said...

Just as I indicated a couple of days ago to someone trying to site the fact (debatable) that the number of federal employees has decreased in the last few decades. The real hidden (well, not really, but with our uneducated, unaware populace, it might as well be) contract employees and general contract giveaways that keep the city, state and feds from fulfilling their basic mission. They all just give away money to their friends (contributors).

So, of course, the cost is wildly inflated. When there is no scrutiny or questioning of our leaders, this is what we get. And when we have councilors of both parties who just toe the party line when their guy is in charge, this is what we get. When we have a feckless media, this is what we get.

This is just another in a series of giveaways and yet these people will be lauded as "good corporate citizens. And the idiots who frequent Broad Ripple will be happy their is a garage to park in until they decide it is too expensive to use.

But this is how government really works and the so-called department heads (and their immediate subordinates) merely serve as gatekeepers. They serve no other purpose.

guy77money said...

Saw you on the news at 6 P.M. today Gary. At least one TV new program got it right! Now when is the Indy Star going to jump on the band wagon. I feel stupid but I didn't notice which station it was on I only quickly stopped to watch the report in passing. Apparently the reporter didn't have to do much research with the Walker study and your statement. Keep up the good work!

CircleCityScribe said...

I wonder if Ballard got some tips on government contracts from Rod Blagojevich?

cswitzer said...

Considering, too, that there are little margins left in the construction industry, $15m for 300 spaces seems awful high. Didn't Franklin recently get an estimate of $8m for a 320 space garage (also with public assistance)?