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JCIDA, City Council at odds over Stream parking lot lease

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Economic development officials are worried that the City Council’s concerns over a five-year lease extension for parking used by employees at Stream Global Services could put a hitch in the company’s expansion plan. The $1-a-year lease signed 10 years ago by the telemarketing company expires today, but on April 15, the City Council refused to vote on a proposal to extend it.

Stream uses four parking lots and a city-owned parking garage at its Arsenal Street site. But council members’ concerns were focused on the 160-space parking lot behind Liberty Plaza, which often is used by employees from other businesses. Stream wants to continue a provision included in the original lease that will give it an exclusive right to the lot; it wants that authority because it likely will need those spaces for the 300 employees it plans to hire, according to the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham has opposed that provision, which the call center could use to prohibit the public parking in the lot. He’s still “struggling to come up with the details on the lease,” and wants more information from Stream before agreeing to vote for the lease.

“My inclination is that everyone can coexist, and I’m not going to tell businesses that have cars there to get out,” Mr. Graham said. “In the real world, people tend to park where they want to park, and I’m not going to stand in the way.”

Stream has planned a $4.2 million expansion at its call center, a project that has been promised financial support from three economic development agencies. The first leg of the project will renovate a 25,000-square-foot area to add 125 seats. With additional upgrades planned, the center is expected to have seating to accommodate 1,000 employees, up from its current capacity of 700.

The additional 300 employees will need parking, which is why Stream has been reluctant to abandon its lease on the Liberty parking lot, JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander said. Stream has had an exclusive right to the lot for the past 10 years, he said, but has allowed the public to use it because it hasn’t needed the space.

“Stream employees have seldom used the Liberty lot behind the Court Street buildings,” Mr. Alexander said. “The reason they’ve been reluctant to give up that lease is because they knew over time the business would expand. Stream has never restricted parking there and people use it — that’s been fine with Stream and the IDA for a period of time. But assuming Stream expands enough where they need the parking for employees, there would be some prohibition” on public parking.

Though Mr. Alexander said he hoped the City Council would approve the parking lease before today, he’s optimistic the council will OK the lease in the near future to prevent delaying Stream’s expansion. He pointed out the City Council agreed to give Stream an exclusive right to the Liberty lot 10 years ago.

“They made those pledges then, and we’re making an assumption that they’re going to stand by what they’ve agreed to do,” he said. “No one wants to put the Stream expansion project at risk, and I think we need to put a period to this sentence.”

According to minutes from the City Council’s April 16 meeting, several concerns were expressed by City Manager Sharon A. Addison about the parking lease. She contended it should have been proposed to the City Council in the fall. She also said it should have been proposed by the Watertown Industrial Center Local Development Corp., not JCIDA, because the former agency leases the lot directly from the city. The lease also should be altered, she said, to include funding for maintenance services at the parking lots, such as snow removal and resurfacing.

The WICLDC sublets the parking lots from the city. JCIDA then sublets them from the WICLDC, before they are they leased to Stream.

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