City Council balks at terms for regional transit/planning building

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — A plan to locate the county’s major transit and planning agencies in downtown Phoenix is on life support following the Phoenix City Council’s opposition to tax breaks for the project.  For more than a year, the Maricopa Association of Governments, the Regional Public Transportation Authority, and Metro light rail have discussed sharing a building, hoping co-locating would lead to cost savings and better cooperation between the agencies.  A fourth agency, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, is also participating.

An initial effort to construct a building at taxpayer expense failed when elected officials balked at the high price tag.  Earlier this year, focus shifted to buying an existing building somewhere in downtown Phoenix.  Now that effort is collapsing as well.  The board of Metro light rail voted Wednesday to reject a proposal to move to 210 E. Earll Drive, the consensus pick of MAG and RPTA.  Metro found that its share of the building would be $30.8 million, or 15% higher than the cost remaining at their current location in the 101 Building downtown.

The cost to move into the new building was higher than expected because Mayor Phil Gordon and a majority of the council oppose allowing the agencies to lease the building from Phoenix at a discounted rate.  Gordon might support such an agreement if the location were closer to downtown Phoenix, a spokesman said.  The council has a policy of not allowing the tax break, known as the government property lease excise tax, outside the downtown core.  MAG and RPTA are meeting this week and next to discus the Earll location.  Unless a new spot is agreed upon by December, the agencies will likely be on their own, officials said.

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