DCR ups rent demands
Agency's requested minimum rent is four times what current parking lot operator is paying
September 06, 2012
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and
Recreation, under scrutiny for leasing state land at
bargain-basement rates, is demanding a big increase in
rent for a state-owned parking lot located in the middle
of Storrow Drive in Boston.
The agency issued a request for proposals on Wednesday
seeking a contractor to operate the parking lot and pay
the state a minimum rent of $500,000 a year for three
years with an option to renew for two additional years at
the state’s discretion. The requested minimum rent is four
times what the current parking lot operator, the
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, is paying.
The state's rental arrangement with Mass Eye and Ear was
one of several highlighted in a CommonWealth report
in January on sweetheart deals handed out by the
Department of Conservation and Recreation. The current
lease, which has never been competitively bid, requires
Mass Eye and Ear to pay rent of $10,000 a month, or
$120,000 a year, for use of the 327-space parking lot.
A Mass Eye and Ear spokeswoman said the hospital makes a
net profit "in the neighborhood of $500,000 a year" from
the parking lot. The institution has operated the parking
lot for more than 20 years.
Following the initial CommonWealth report, the
commissioner of the Department of Conservation and
Recreation, Edward Lambert, called
in state Auditor Suzanne Bump to review all of the
agency's leases. Bump hasn't released her report yet, but
Lambert said she has already brought issues to his
agency's attention requiring corrective action. "We have
been on our own cleaning a lot of stuff up," he said,
declining to be more specific.
Mass Eye and Ear, which says it desperately needs more
parking for its patients and staff, seems determined to
hold on to the Storrow Drive parking lot. The infirmary's
spokeswoman, Jennifer Street, said the hospital intends to
submit a bid in connection with this week's request for
proposals. The institution is also trying to build
legislative and community support for draft legislation
that would allow it to lease the property for 99 years. As
part of its proposal, the infirmary would
build a four-story, 1,000-car garage underneath the
Storrow Drive surface lot it now uses and construct a park
The proposal also calls for a section of Storrow Drive to
be relocated and Mass Eye and Ear to expand its existing
facilities out over the Charles Street Extension to the
edge of the new park. The project would cost an estimated
$170 million; Mass Eye and Ear is seeking state funds to
help with the relocation of Storrow Drive.
Lambert said he didn't see Mass Eye and Ear's legislative
proposal as an attempt to do an end-run around the agency.
"They have the right to do that. Everyone has the right to
do that," he said. "We're in the administrative branch.
We're here to implement the law."
It is unclear what would happen if the Department of
Conservation and Recreation finalizes the parking lot
lease early next year and if Mass Eye and Ear then
succeeds in pushing its legislation through the
Legislature. “I suppose that legislation can be written
to abrogate contracts,” Lambert said.