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Parking Garages Delayed in Covington, Valet Costs to Rise

Construction delays on residential projects are affecting parking in Mainstrasse Village.

The Covington city commission will vote on raising the price of valet in the entertainment-focused neighborhood as the parking garage at River Haus, the new apartment community going up at the former 501 Main site, is behind schedule.

The parking garage for that development now has a mid-October opening date.

Since the project eliminated much of the parking lot that serves the Village, a valet company has been stationed at 6th and Main Streets, where guests pay $3 to have their cars parked. An additional $3 per user is paid by the City of Covington and the project to developer ($1.50 each) to Tri-State Valet, Inc. But, that company says the $6 total fee is not working for its business model.

(This article has been updated to reflect that the city and the developer each contribute to the valet, not just the city.)

Instead, the price will be raised to $9 per vehicle, with a continued $3 per user subsidy from the City of Covington and $6 charged to drivers.

The valet is expected to remain in place until at least when the River Haus parking garage opens. City Manager David Johnston said the city would work with the River Haus developer on possibly contributing to the valet subsidy to keep the price down for visitors.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the neighborhood, another parking garage is slated to go up - but is also not yet underway.

John Whitson, an Alabama-based developer, is turning the former John R. Green building and surrounding area into a high-end residential development. The project will include a parking garage for residents, and 92 spaces for the public, per an agreement with the City of Covington.

The city will use $2.5 million from its reserves to fund the construction of the garage. The new Covington Parking Authority will repay that money once it has the funds and is approved for its own bonding capacity.

City Manager David Johnston said that there will be no risk to the city for doing this and that it is the best option financially for the city to move forward with the agreement to subsidize a portion of the development so that it can be used for both public and private parking upon completion.

The John R. Green project now has financing from First Financial, and the city commission will issue up to $26 million in bonds to assist the project. The developer will be responsible for those bonds.

The city will only take on the underlying fees of the project and lease it back to the contractor for a fee to pay for the debt service, which will be paid by the contractor to First Financial.

At the end of construction, the city will sell the lease back to the contractor, with an agreement that 92 spaces in the new parking garage will be allotted for public parking and any future revenues from the garages will also go to the Parking Authority.

Demolition and construction of the John R. Green Loft is set to begin early-mid July.

The city commission is expected to vote on these issues next Tuesday.
Written by Carrie Crotzer, RCN contributor