TIF renews investment in downtown

Fort Worth residents and visitors who rely on free downtown parking to launch their night and weekend activities can rest assured that it’s not going away any time soon.

This week, the Downtown Tax Increment Finance board, the entity responsible for determining which tax dollars are reinvested in what downtown Fort Worth projects, unanimously approved leases at four key garages, assuring cost-free night and weekend parking to patrons and guests through 2025.

But “free parking” comes at a price.

The new lease with Sundance Square, which will ensure use of 2,311 spaces in garages at 215 Commerce St., 400 Jones St. and 420 Throckmorton St., will cost $231,145 annually for use of the three structures.

A second lease with Cousins Properties covers 1,000 spaces in its garage at 777 Main St. — the garage most frequently used by patrons of Bass Performance Hall. That garage will cost the TIF $250,000 a year for five years.

Both leases will be adjusted for inflation annually after the first five years of the agreement.

The new parking deals will cost the TIF significantly less than the previous leases did. Jim Johnson, the TIF’s director, even said that Sundance Square “offered a generous deal” on its garages, according to Star-Telegram reporter Sandra Baker.

From the looks of it, Johnson is right.

Under the new leases, Sundance will receive about a third of what it was paid under past agreements.

Sundance Square is also one of the largest beneficiaries of the subsidized parking, so its loss is also an investment.

The cost of the new leases will reduce the funds the TIF has to devote to other downtown projects by about $3.2 million.

But that’s also an investment in the city that is worth making.

It’s no secret that free parking has been a crucial element to reviving and augmenting Fort Worth’s downtown community, attracting patrons to the streets, sidewalks, restaurants, shops and Sundance Square Plaza on nights and weekends.

Perhaps when the leases expire 10 years from now the promise of free parking will no longer be needed to draw people downtown.

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