Fewer parkers: CPC reveals third straight drop
For the third straight year, the number of cars visiting the three lots controlled by Charlottesville Parking Center has fallen. And yet that didn't stop the company, the city's oldest and largest parking company, from increasing its profitability.
The report came Thursday, March 25, at the annual meeting of the firm organized in 1959 to fend off competition from Barracks Road Shopping Center by providing free or low-cost parking to downtown businesses.
The privately-held company (of which the Hook owns a single share to gain meeting access) reported that the number of so-called "transient parkers" has fallen from about 717,000 at the 2006 peak to just 526,000 in 2009, a 27 percent decline. Monthly parking, Berry said, suffered a 15 percent decline from its peak in 2008.
"I hate to say it," General Manager Bob Stroh told the shareholders, "but there's nothing much we can do about it. Nobody comes downtown to park; we have those customers because other businesses attract people."
One thing Stroh was able to steer were his successful negotiations with the City of Charlottesville to win a new five-year contract to manage the City's Market Street Parking Garage, the only one of the three facilities managed in which the Center has no ownership stake. That City agreement was dated April 1, 2009.
Berry and Stroh discussed some of 2009's other bright spots, which include the May 31 completion of the rebricking of the Downtown Mall as well as the reopening of the Jefferson Theater and the Southern concert hall in the late fall.
Negatives included the cessation of construction on the Landmark Hotel, which had contracted to rent many spaces from the company, as well as a persistently poor economy, which has resulted, Berry said, in a nine percent retail vacancy rate downtown.
At the meeting, held at its accountants' offices on Westfield Road, the company revealed plans to make a $100,000 donation for some yet-to-be determined senior citizen services in the name of former company board member and late banker Hovey Dabney, whose son, Slayton Dabney, serves on the board.
During the height of the real estate boom two years ago, the company tried to position itself for sale, but that effort has ended.
"We are in a holding pattern," said Berry, who gave up a higher salary earned during the period while trying to sell the company.
He declined to publicly release his old or new salary. However, the reduction of Berry's salary, Stroh told shareholders, helped the company increase its profit, and the financial report shows that the company paid $103,000 less last year than the prior year on salaries and fringe benefits.
So all this helped the company turn 2009–- with sales static at $2.14 million–- into a year with net income of $324,514, about 10 percent more profit than 2008.
Near the end of the meeting, Berry directed shareholders to pick up a bottle of water. Emblazened on the bottle was a white "P" in a blue circle, the company's first logo in its 50-year history. The Payne Ross advertising agency was credited with the design.