City drops quest for parking company, authority
After spending over $400,000 in the quest, the City of Charlottesville appears to have abandoned its effort to buy a private parking company whose one-acre parking lot has long tantalized development-minded city planners.
The retreat was evident in an October 23 letter mailed to Charlottesville Parking Center Inc's shareholders (which include the Hook). Company president James R. Berry revealed that no bid meeting its minimum threshold–- which was $17.5 million–- was received.
"The Board has determined that the proper course at the present is to terminate the sale process and operate the company until such time as economic and other circumstances justify reconsideration of the sale."
The City's quest came with a price tag of at least $405,000.
Despite having already purchased two prior architectural studies of the site, the City controversially spent $153,000 to hold a design contest last year to incite projects that would use the company's one-acre parking lot as well as the City's own adjacent land.
Then, this year, as reported on the Hook's online news site in July, the City spent $252,400 to get the the law firm of Williams Mullen to study the merits of buying the company.
A Freedom of Information Act request shows some detail in that expenditure:
• $45,000 to Tourney Consulting Group LLC for engineering assessments,
• $22,000 to Property Valuation Advisors Inc. for appraisals,
• $53,340 to Lansing Melbourne Group for parking business valuations.
“We selected these firms to partner with us,” Williams Mullen noted, “because of their reputations and their expertise.”
The largest expenditure was the array of invoices from attorney Bryan D. Wright. By the end of May, the Williams Mullen partner had spent nearly 221 hours on everything from giving status reports to City officials to searching for “intangible assets.” Despite waiving some of his usual $350/hour fee in the final days of the report’s compilation, his billings totaled over $60,000.
His firm’s report, withheld from public view by the City Attorney’s office, may have shown the City how to create a parking authority and pay for the massive purchase with 20-year, general obligation bonds.
A hint about how much the City was expected to pay for the company came in July when the company declared that they wouldn’t consider any offer below $17.5 million. Another recent action taken by the company was its insistence on a gag order on its biggest critic, part of stock buy-back apparently consummated late last month.
In recent days, as fiscal crisis strikes America, local governments have begun announcing cut-backs including a recent announcement that the City would pare some parks renovations.
The City's director of Economic Development, Aubrey Watts, who had been leading the City's effort to purchase the property, was not immediately available for comment.