EDITORIAL: There’s money in them thar parking decks

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Cone Denim Entertainment Center has a shared parking agreement on a lot purchased by the city of Greensboro for a planned parking garage and hotel.

There’s a lot more to the Cone Denim Entertainment Center saga in downtown Greensboro than parking decks, though that is indeed at the center of the controversy.

At issue is a backdoor easement that allows bands playing at venue to park their buses and load their equipment into the club. The easement runs along property the city recently purchased to build a parking deck, primarily to serve a planned hotel coming to what is now the Elm Street Center.

Club owner Rocco Scarfone and his lawyer Amiel Rossabi contend that “the use of the easement is inextricably intertwined with the operation of the facility,” according to an email Rossabi sent to Mayor Nancy Vaughan — who, incidentally, is also a client of his.

The city has offered $45,000 for the easement, and City Attorney Tom has suggested simply condemning the space if this offer is not accepted, absorbing it into the city project.

Rossabi’s “inextricably intertwined” argument doesn’t hold water: There are plenty of downtown music clubs in this country that don’t have backdoor easements and still manage to stay in business. It kind of sucks on the street though — and after the hotel is up and running, Elm Street traffic will become even more ridiculous than it is now.

More disturbing is seeing the city flex its muscle against a locally owned business, as detached from the local music scene as CDEC, known for cover bands, nostalgia acts and third-tier touring groups, seems to be.

And the easement, which is nothing more than a stretch of asphalt that connects the back of the club to Market Street through a parking lot, becomes incredibly valuable when taken in context.

That part of downtown Greensboro becomes important when you consider that it borders a gigantic, six-acre parcel of property — the News & Record campus — that went up for sale in September, opening up enormous possibilities for the district.

Piece it together with the parking deck and hotel project, the various players on the fringes of the development. And don’t forget the Tanger Center — although frankly, someone must have forgotten about it because it doesn’t look like there has been any real progress on that lot in months. Now we’re talking well north of $100 million in investment concentrated on a very small area, every inch of which will increase exponentially in value fairly quickly — including Scarfone’s easement.

So it’s as good a time as any for a legitimate businessman to wet his beak.

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