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East Avenue parking lot closes; future uncertain

An 80-space surface parking lot on East Avenue is closed this week and a for-sale sign is posted after property owner Natapow Realty Corp. and lot operator Fairway Parking Inc. could not come to terms on a new lease.
 
Natapow representatives did not respond to requests for comment on their intentions for the property, at 182 East Avenue on the west side of Mathews Street between the Easy on East nightclub and the Spot Coffee Ltd. cafe.
 
"It’s good for easy parking at night but also for during the day," said Fairway Parking owner Jeff Poz. "There were a lot of regular businesspeople there every day that have to find somewhere else to park now."
 
Poz has steered the closed lot’s monthly customers to the Fairway Parking lot at 21 Stillson St., near the corner of Main and Chestnut streets. He has not given up on securing a new lease with Natapow for the East Avenue lot.
 
"We’re hoping," he said. "We’re working on it."
 
Fairway Parking, based in Gates, had been managing the lot until its closure at the end of last week. It has been empty since the post-Labor Day workweek began Tuesday, with chained gates across its entrance.
 
"It is for sale," Poz said. "The signs are up there. But as far as I know, they haven’t sold it.
 
"I don’t know of any other players," he added. "It’s just simply that we couldn’t come to terms on the lease. It’s just like a pizza joint. If you can’t come to terms on a lease, you go somewhere else."
 
The closed lot had been filled to about 60 percent of capacity, Poz said.
 
"Surface parking lots tend to be cash cows for owners," said Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp. "If a lot closes, it’s generally for a very specific reason."
 
Zimmer-Meyer is unaware of any plans or options for the lot, she said, and does not know why it is closed.
 
"If it’s for something physical, like resurfacing, it could either be because the site is going under sale or it’s being redeveloped and it hasn’t been announced yet," she said. "It’s also conceivable that they have leased the entire lot to one use, either a company or a building or something.
 
"Any one of those things could be in the offing. Until the owner is willing to disclose the circumstances, it’s anybody’s guess."
 
The East Avenue lot accounts for 27 percent of Fairway Parking’s total of 295 spaces in the local market.
 
Fairway previously managed the 115-space East Avenue Lot at the corner of East Avenue and North Union Street and the 173-space Main Sanctuary Lot at 321 East Ave. Both now are operated by Buffalo-based Allpro Parking LLC.
 
Allpro, operator of the East End garage nearby, was unaware that the Natapow-owned lot was closed until Tuesday, company officials said.
 
"All we know is the lot closed rather abruptly, but no reasoning as to why," spokeswoman Jenna Luehrsen said.
 
Allpro might be interested in operating the Natapow lot, Luehrsen said.
 
"Allpro is always interested in the possibility of acquiring new properties," she said, "but nothing has been put into action at this point."
 
The Buffalo company manages 15 facilities and more than 7,000 spaces in Rochester. They include six city-owned lots and four private lots.
 
Natapow sold most of its residential properties in 2006, but the firm has retained its commercial portfolio of some 800,000 square feet.
 
The closure of the East Avenue lot comes with downtown parking already at a premium. The underground garage at the former site of Midtown Plaza has been closed since Sept. 30, 2008, as the 8.5-acre location is redeveloped, and some surface lots in the city are targeted for building development.
 
A study is under way to find ways to increase parking on the west side of downtown.
 
"There is a larger effort under way right now to connect the voices of business and the needs coming from that sector with the city folks who run the parking system," Zimmer-Meyer said, "so that there is a more effective balance between the need to run a self-supporting parking system downtown and the need to attract and retain business."

9/9/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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