The slow start to the new downtown cinema is taking a financial toll, costing the city $1.25 million in anticipated parking revenues, according to a report from City Manager Ed Everett.
The city had counted on earning $2.4 million in parking revenues in 12 months after the new Century Theatres retail-cinema complex opened in July and the City Council increased downtown parking rates in an effort to boost turnover, according to Finance Director Brian Ponty. Instead, it earned $850,000.
“The reasons for this [shortfall] are several, but the primary belief is that the continued operation of the Century 12 Theatres at the East Bayshore Boulevard location is crimping attendance at the downtown theater,” Everett said in a report on the 2007-08 budget.
Once the theater opened downtown, Redwood City leaders and downtown business owners had assumed that Century Theatres would close its 25-year-old Century 12. The Syufy family, which owns the Bayshore Boulevard property, proposed in 2005 a 600-condominium plan to replace the theater, a concept that was vetoed by city leaders.
In response, Century announced in February 2006 that it intended to keep Century 12 open indefinitely.
“I can understand why you’d want to go to Century 12 — there’s lots of free parking,” said resident Judy Buchan, a member of the Redwood City Downtown Business Group.
The group recently met with Everett and other city leaders, angered by the fact that top-run movies, such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” continue to open at Century 12 rather than the downtown theater. Cinemark officials did not return calls for comment last week.
Everett has pursued closed-door negotiations with the Syufys in order for the city to lease the property and draw an auto mall to the site, but those negotiations were delayed this spring.
The city spent $430,000 on parking-related items in 2006. This year, expenses rose to $2.1 million as the city began paying for additional parking-enforcement officers, utilities on the new underground garage on Jefferson Avenue and $400,000 on new solar-powered meters, Ponty said.
The city has a projected $1.1 million surplus in its 2007-08 budget, but city staff are recommending that the council pay for the parking shortfall out of reserves because it would be a one-time expense, Ponty said. The council will begin budgetdeliberations tonight.
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