SCRANTON -- Downtown Scranton's on and off-street parking system and the Scranton Parking Authority that oversees it are considered to be financial albatrosses around the city's neck.
The authority's debt is about $53 million and the garages need millions of dollars in repairs.
At a special meeting Wednesday, the parking authority entered into a lease agreement with a nonprofit company, the National Development Council.
Under the lease terms, the NDC will give the authority $32 million to pay down its debt and invest millions in improvements to the garages.
Attorney Bill Conaboy, who serves as special concession council to the city and authority, explained the deal.
“The goal was take that debt, take the garages, find a partner who will pay off as much of that debt as possible,” said Conaboy.
“The parking authority will remain because this is not a sale; it's a lease,” said Todd Johns, the executive director of the authority. “We're retaining ownership of these assets, so we will get them back at the conclusion of the lease agreement in better condition than when we gave them.”
Brothers Tom and Bill Sheakoski own Pizza by Pappas, located underneath the Linden Street Garage. They say improving downtown parking will only improve business.
“They're trying to incorporate the downtown businesses and invest in the businesses,” said Tom Sheakoski. “So I'm hoping the promises they're making they'll keep up with what they say.”
The lease is expected to last about 40 to 45 years.
During that time, NDC will manage the parking system and collect any money made from it.
However, the free parking at The Marketplace at Steamtown, formerly The Mall at Steamtown, will remain.
“People who are patrons at the mall will continue to park for free. People who are customers at the new movie theater will be able to park for free. We want to bring people downtown,” said Johns.