Parking Breaks

Phoenix's shadow governors had keen ideas for the warehouse district south of Bank One Ballpark. But property owners told them where they could park them.

Parking studies commissioned by the stadium district estimated a parking deficiency of about 6,000 spaces for a worst-case scenario in which the stadium, the arena, the Civic Plaza and Herberger Theater Center all had events at the same time. That estimate may even be optimistic, claims condemnation attorney Jay Dushoff, who battled the stadium district as it gobbled up the land for the stadium's current site. The stadium district study was based on an average 3.5 persons per car, while Dushoff says a figure of 2.75 or 3 persons per car would be more likely--which means the parking deficit could be much higher than the 6,000 posited by the stadium parking study.

Zoning regulations in the warehouse overlay district, which were rewritten for the stadium, explicitly state that the stadium owner and the operator--the stadium district and the Diamondbacks, respectively--are not required to build parking facilities to accommodate the stadium crowds. But, any parking that has a primary purpose of servicing the stadium must be owned by the Diamondbacks or the stadium district.

With the stadium budget already sky-high at $348 million, no one involved with the project would even think of asking for more public money to build parking.

When America West Arena opened in 1992, property owners in the warehouse district started knocking down buildings to create surface parking lots and make money from arena events, which prompted the city to rewrite the zoning statutes. Arguably, the prohibition of new surface lots was meant to preserve the architectural integrity of the neighborhood--though others saw ulterior motives.

"If I can knock down an old building and run a parking lot for ten years while I wait for the neighborhood to redevelop, the parking lot can be extremely profitable," says Jay Dushoff. "Therefore, if you come along and condemn my land, you've got to pay for it at a higher level, because I have a parking lot or a right to put a parking lot there."

The new zoning laws also forbid construction of any parking garage that's not accessory to some other use. In other words, if you build a garage, it has to be to provide parking for your office building or restaurant.

"At that point, my conspiratorial mind tells me Colangelo and friends say, 'We want to build those parking lots ourselves. We don't want people making money off our ballpark,'" says Dushoff.

Obviously, rather than build their own parking facilities, Colangelo and friends have been forced to find their parking spaces by finding accessory uses, such as parking for the master-planned retail and restaurant mall that Rushman proposed on Jackson Street.

And if that fails, by looking elsewhere: like talking the city into spending $40 million to build a 2,500-space garage across Jefferson Street from the ballpark--a garage, incidentally, that can empty all 2,500 cars in 30 minutes--and calling it accessory parking to the Civic Plaza and the new science museum ("Parking Mirage," April 25).

And currently, Colangelo's lieutenants are negotiating with the state and its lease-holder to build a 974-space garage across Seventh Street from the stadium--as accessory parking to an AHCCCS facility there. Fans could easily park in that AHCCCS garage and walk under Seventh Street, which is elevated. The vice president of the development firm that originally built the AHCCCS building, incidentally, was Michael Rushman.

Furthermore, the Diamondbacks have approached the Zeb Pearce beer distributorship to allow overflow surface parking on its considerable open space just south of the stadium across the tracks.

The only thing left to do is figure a way to keep pedestrians safe as they walk through the dark streets of the warehouse district to the ballpark.

The Downtown Enhanced Municipal Services District was created by the City Council in August 1990 as a means of combining public and private funds and clout for the betterment of downtown. In January 1991, the council approved the formation of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, with Margaret Mullen at its helm.

Partnership correspondence always capitalizes "Downtown," as if it were a fiefdom. That realm, essentially, is an oligarchy; the more property you own, the bigger voice you have in the partnership's decisions. And though it is not an official government body, it has the ability to levy taxes. DPP funding comes from an involuntary assessment levied on all property within its boundaries--roughly from Fillmore Street to the railroad tracks and from Seventh Street to Third Avenue.

This year's assessments raked in $1.2 million, more than $600,000 from assessments inflicted on private property, more than $400,000 from the city, and the rest from the county and the stadium district. Forty-five percent of that money, or $519,500, pays the lease and office expense for the partnership's Mercado headquarters and the salaries of the eight staffers. The rest of the money pays for the partnership's marketing strategies and databases, for DASH shuttle buses, for streetscaping such as last year's fussing and primping before the NBA All-Star Game. And it pays for "security guides," those helmeted and purple-shirted young men on bicycles who patrol the streets, purportedly handing out city information. In fact, they are Wells Fargo security guards armed with walkie-talkies so that they can snitch on questionable goings-on.

The partnership's board of directors is a who's who of downtown: Neil Irwin, an attorney with Streich Lang, is president; Jerry Colangelo is vice president. City Manager Frank Fairbanks sits on the board, as does downtown councilman Cody Williams and APS chairman Mark DeMichele and Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., chieftain Chip Weil.

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