Jeremy Ogul | Contributing editor
2014 to mark first year in the black for parking garage
North Park’s parking garage is finally paying for itself.
Since it opened in late 2005, the frequently empty garage on North Park Way and 29th Street has struggled to sell enough parking each year to cover its expenses, requiring taxpayer subsidies to make up the difference.
Now, however, city number crunchers expect the structure to end the 2014 calendar year with a $34,747 surplus instead of an initially anticipated $18,049 deficit. In 2015, the garage is expected to generate a $43,527 surplus beyond its $272,066 in expenses.
“This is the first year we really are proposing positive cash flow,” said Stephanie Shook, financial analyst for Civic San Diego, the city-owned nonprofit organization that manages the garage.
This year’s unexpected revenue upswing of more than $50,000 is probably due to a surge in events at the North Park Theatre just across 29th Street, Shook said.
Local restaurateurs David Cohen, Bobby Jones and the Verant Group purchased the theater in 2013 and joined forces with Casbah owner Tim Mays to begin hosting live music there in June.
The calendar since then has featured major national and international touring artists, including Rodriguez, Lykke Li, John Waters, Lauryn Hill, Ziggy Marley, The Naked and Famous, Flying Lotus, Washed Out and The New Pornographers. Many of those shows sold out, meeting the theater’s standing-room-only capacity of 1,100.
The theater’s calendar for 2015 is shaping up to be at least as promising as 2014, Cohen said.
Two shows — an April 2 concert by TV On The Radio and a May 28 performance by Neutral Milk Hotel — have already sold out. Tickets are still available for other big-name shows, including Wale and Cold War Kids.
Those shows, which attract both North Park residents and visitors from beyond the neighborhood, help fill the 340 public parking spaces in the garage, where parking costs $1 an hour or $5 a day.
The shows also help boost sales in the neighborhood’s numerous shops and eateries, including West Coast Tavern and True North Tavern, both owned by Cohen and the Verant Group.
The symbiotic relationship between the parking garage and the theater was originally envisioned by Bud Fischer, the developer who renovated the theater in the early 2000s and helped convince San Diego officials to enter a public-private partnership to build the garage with redevelopment money.
In addition to hourly and daily parking, monthly permits are available to North Park businesses and residents for $20 to $35 a month and to non-residents for $55 a month. ACE Parking manages the garage’s day-to-day operations based on a flat-rate contract. Civic San Diego allocates any surplus in parking revenues to an account designated for repairs and upgrades to the garage.
Shook said ACE’s outreach and marketing to local businesses and residents has also contributed to increased revenue at the garage.
Despite the garage’s uncertain performance over the past nine years, business leaders agree that it has contributed significantly to the transformation of a once-decaying North Park into one of the city’s most vibrant and trendy neighborhoods.
“It’s a huge asset to North Park, and I think that’s really one of the drivers of what is attractive for business owners to come in and build their businesses around that parking garage,” Cohen said.
Angela Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street, said the parking garage also makes North Park an attractive destination for visitors from other neighborhoods who do not want to have to worry about finding parking when they go out for dinner or shopping.
“We have a joke with Hillcrest that they have parking garage envy,” Landsberg said. “It’s been bringing thousands and thousands of people to North Park.”
—Contact Jeremy Ogul at Jeremy@sdcnn.com.