Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Could Leave Parking Business

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 5:00am
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 - 11:49am
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(Photo courtesy of Sky Harbor Airport)
Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport could be getting out of the parking business. The Aviation Department wants to explore the private sector building a new transportation center and taking over the airport’s other public parking facilities.

Right now, the bulk of airport parking can be found east of Sky Harbor, about 9,500 spaces. The west side of the airport has about 3,700 spaces which will disappear when Terminal 2 is demolished and the PHX Sky Train® extends to 24th Street and Buckeye Road.

“It’s important in terms of the evolution of the airport that we have some capacity for future growth on the west side,” Aviation Director Jim Bennett told a city subcommittee.

Here’s the idea he pitched: let a private developer build a west economy parking garage at the future PHX Sky Train® station and offer a long-term, private lease of the airport’s other parking facilities. 

The airport’s financial consultant, Larry Belinsky, pointed to Uber, Lyft and autonomous vehicles as reasons to get out of the parking business. "The longer we were to wait, the less the window of opportunity there is and the risk becomes even greater for the private sector," he said.

But Councilman Michael Nowakowksi expressed frustration over the focus on parking at 24th Street and Buckeye.

“It wasn’t just once but about a dozen times I asked you to look into some retail and a hotel,” Nowakowksi said. “So I’m not sure why you all keep coming with a just a parking lot.”

Bennett said private developers suggested the airport start with a request for proposals for parking only on an 8-acre site and return at a later date with a commercial deal for a 5-acre site.

The subcommittee instructed Sky Harbor leaders to return next month to share feedback from developers and concepts that include more than parking.

Vice Mayor Laura Pastor voiced concern about the lack of discussion and understanding about future development at 24th Street and Buckeye Road.

“I believe as a council we are the ones that really probably should lead on what we want to see on that west side and then determine how we want to build that,” she said. “That’s probably a bigger dialogue we probably have to have a council in particular what we want to see for that west side.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to clarify the Aviation Department's plans.

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