Ramping down: Council sells parking lots

Here’s a summary of actions taken in Friday’s City Council meeting:

Parking Ramps: The City Council unanimously approved the sale of eight city-owned parking ramps.

Along with the sale, the city committed to providing access to a dislocated worker program for any parking ramp employee who loses his or her job in ownership transition. Union officials representing the current parking ramp workers expressed frustration that they hadn’t been a part of the discussion of the ramp sales earlier in the process and that there wasn’t job protection for parking ramp employees.

The ramps will be split among three different buyers, with the city receiving a total of more than $88 million.

— St. Anthony Ramp LLC has agreed to pay a little more than $2.5 million for the St. Anthony Ramp, 210 2nd Ave. SE.

— The Guthrie Theater Foundation has agreed to pay $16.5 million for the Riverfront Ramp, 212 9th Ave. S.

— Alatus Partners LLC has agreed to pay just over $69 million in return for Centre Village Municipal Ramp, 700 5th Ave. S.; Downtown East Municipal Ramp, 425 Park Ave. S.; Federal Courthouse Municipal Ramp (leasehold interest only), 333 3rd Ave. S.; Gateway Municipal Ramp, 400 S. 3rd St.; Loring Municipal Ramp, 1330 Nicollet Mall; and Seven Corners Municipal Ramp, 1504 Washington Ave. S.

On average, the ramps were collectively expected to lose about $690,000 annually in upcoming years, according to a city report. In addition to the sale proceeds, if the ramps are sold the city will also collect annual property taxes of roughly $800,000 from them.

City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) said although the city entered the parking business at a time when it was necessary to facilitate development and growth Downtown, owning the ramps has exposed the city to a business “fraught with highs and lows.” The city will be better served with the ramps in the hands of the private sector, she said.

“When the city owns these assets, we have not been able to do what the private sector can do,” Goodman said, noting that the private sector can invest money in improving the ramps and develop around them.

According to city reports, Alatus won out over other bidders because it proposed to develop at least one housing, service retail and/or hotel projects at a cost of $13 million on the Downtown East Ramp site and develop a $10 million housing project on the Seven Corners Ramp site.

Wage Cap: The Council approved a new compensation philosophy that includes lifting the 2 percent wage increase cap the city has had in place since 2003. Council Member Robert Lilligren (6th Ward) said removing the cap is a good move toward a more comprehensive compensation philosophy because it shows good faith on all sides of the bargaining table.

“It’s something that we have heard from our represented employees … that they want to see some action in moving away from that,” Lilligren said.

 

Absent: Council Members Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) and Gary Schiff (9th Ward) were absent.