Waterfront Development Corp. is considering charging for parking during events at Waterfront Park. | Courtesy of Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park may start requiring paid parking during events in the future to cover a budget shortfall.

The idea surfaced this week after David Karem, president of Waterfront Development Corp., spoke at a Louisville Metro Council budget meeting. He stated that because the state was no longer supporting Waterfront Park, the WDC’s board of directors wanted to cover its budget shortfall with daily parking fees.

However, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told WDC leaders that he wasn’t in favor of that idea, Karem told Metro Council members at a meeting Tuesday.

“The board of the Waterfront Development Corp. was fairly sympathetic to that idea and recommended that we do that,” Karem said in the meeting. “The mayor’s office has asked us to put that on hold because the mayor does not feel like people should have to pay to park down there. From a staff perspective, we are in a netherworld trying to figure out how we make up the shortfalls.”

WDC considered charging $5 for three hours of parking at a Waterfront Park lot, which would bring in an estimated $450,000 annually.

Instead, the mayor plans to present an ordinance to Metro Council asking to shift funds to cover the corporation’s $210,000 park budget shortfall. The money was already earmarked for Waterfront Park, but would be moved from the fiscal year 2017 capital budget for Waterfront Park Phase IV to WDC’s operating budget, said Daniel Frockt, the city budget director.

Still, that only solves the problem for this year. Paid parking may eventually come to Waterfront Park — but only on certain days, Karem told Insider in a phone interview.

WDC leadership plans to sit down with parking lot operators, including representatives with PARC, to talk about implementing paid parking for events at Waterfront Park. Karem said they wanted to see how they would enforce an event-only parking charge and also had to define what WDC means by an event.

Karem said he didn’t know how much potential revenue that could bring in.

The idea of paying for parking on event days only did not come up during Tuesday’s meeting, but several council members did expressed concerns about charging for parking on a daily basis.

“I just don’t want to overburden those who may not be able to afford coming to Waterfront,” said Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, D-14. “I don’t want any deterrent from them coming and enjoying the park. We just need to look and figure out a way to get those funds that is going to make you all whole.”

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, D-4, encouraged the WDC to reach out to philanthropic groups in the city who may be interested in donating money to keep parking free for all resident, noting that Brown-Forman donated money so that the Speed Art Museum could offer free admission on Sundays.

Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-17, suggested that the WDC consider what opportunities it had to lease property to outside entities and increase revenue through rent agreements.

“I would encourage you to look at that,” she said.

Karem said the corporation had put out requests for proposals for two properties, but the offers didn’t satisfy the board of directors. And when Leet pressed on whether the offers would have covered the budget shortfall, he added that one entity didn’t want to pay anything to the WDC for the first four years.

In an interview with Insider, Karem said that the WDC had not given up on seeking state funding and was working with one of its board members, Scott Brinkman, who also is secretary of Gov. Matt Bevin’s cabinet, to get the annual state funds reinstated.

“We will continue to work on that,” he said. “I am certainly not going to give up on that.”

The state was expected to give the WDC $400,000 in funding for Waterfront Park, but Bevin vetoed that line item in the budget. By upping the fees it charges for events, the WDC was able to cut the budget shortfall down to $210,000.

Karem said the leadership considered other cost saving measures such as reducing lighting in the park or shutting down water features that children play, but those options weren’t desirable.