Three very basic unanswered questions about the $16.8m Polk Street Garage proposal

(102nd in a series of posts on parking)

On the chance that the Bethlehem Parking Authority will return to Council tonight (remember, 5:30PM start time tonight) with the final version of its proposal regarding financing of a Polk Street Garage, Gadfly will start to wrap up this thread that started way back at post #79.

If the BPA is not at Council tonight, they will be August 20.

In regard to construction of a Polk Street Garage, the BPA holds all the cards (damn cliches . . . like a disease). As Gadfly wrote in post #90, objections and questions (like those of Councilwoman Van Wirt’s recorded in past posts) are like blowin’ in the wind.

For if the BPA progresses to construct the Polk Street Garage with a private loan as planned, City Council apparently has no say, has no oversight. BPA does not need City Council approval for a private loan.

At least that’s the way it looks to Gadfly.

But there are some basic questions that potentially undermine the validity and legitimacy of the project that ought to answered (a whittled-down version of the Gadfly questions posed in post #89):

1) Are there options to the Polk Street Garage?

Remember that we are talking about $16.8m that — one way or another — “we” will pay for.

That’s big money.

Walkability guru Jeff Speck — who did a study for Bethlehem in 2009 and whose books Gadfly has been reading — says, “Locate large parking structures strategically as downtown anchors. And don’t build them unless no other option exists” (2018).

“Don’t build them unless no other option exists.”

As far as Gadfly knows, there has been no credible definitive statement about the unavailability of the “Ruins lots” as options.

2) Is building a garage “legal” at that location?

At the very moment I am writing this (9:08AM), Peter Crownfield posted, “I’m still waiting to hear what gives BPA the right to exceed their mandate [to provide parking in commercial district zones] and construct a garage at Polk Street to benefit private developers. (Or is that now the norm in Bethlehem?).”

Yes, that question has been asked a half-dozen times in public meetings and has never been publicly answered.

It just hangs in the air, casting — for Gadfly anyway — a shadow over the project.

It’s a question that seems easy enough to publicly answer yes or no.

3) Can the BPA carry the debt?

Gadfly doesn’t think he could get a mortgage if his payment would exceed 30% of his income.

In 2024 — when the Walnut Street Garage is in the mix — the BPA draft pro forma shows projected total debt service as $3,472, 933 (page 5) with projected total revenue¬† of $8,549,242 (page 4).

Debt service is projected to be 41% of revenue.

If Gadfly is reading the figures right, is that fiscally responsible?

Gadfly isn’t sure. Just askin’.

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