At a workshop today, Savannah City Council was told they'd have decide immediately to secure a favorable lease on a surface parking lot for the Savannah Arena, because the landowner has another offer on the table.
The new lease on the 22.5-acre lot, adjacent to Chatham Steel and owned by the Tenenbaum family, would reduce the City's rent from $696,000 a year for five years, to $525,000 for ten years.
"Why at this hour do we need to take a vote when we didn't have an idea there was another developer," asked Alderman Detric Leggett.
"It seems like everybody else has a personal stake in the City of Savannah except the people of Savannah," he said, referring to the potential of the lease being terminated after ten years for another development, such as a hotel, leaving the City without adequate parking for the Arena.
Deputy City Manager Bret Bell said the 1952-space surface lot is preferable to a 2000-space garage, an option also discussed, for several reasons.
First, the cost of a garage would be $65 million and would require a City bond to fund construction.
Secondly, "we are not positive we could build a 2000-space parking garage" in time for the anticipated February 2022 opening of the Arena, Bell said.
Alderman Nick Palumbo said "we're stuck between two options. One, to save money per year [on the surface lot], and the other one is to float a bond for a very large parking garage."
The talk, which Bell called "the path to 2400 spaces," was about how to come up with the anticipated needed amount of parking for the ambitious Savannah Arena/Canal District project in West Savannah.
In addition to the surface lot, there are plans for a smaller, 400-space garage.
"The cost for that is $12.5 million. The funds would be available in the Parking Service fund and SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax)," Bell said.
Bell said that while current projections show as much as a 3000-space need, "Rideshare use is doubling every two years — so we don't know what parking demand will be in ten years."
As part of the presentation, Bell said that about 1000 other spaces could be found between several City-owned properties nearby.