In 1974 the City Council formed a “Downtown Riverfront Development Committee”, made up of more than 100 interested private citizens. The committee made recommendations for future development of downtown. One of the recommendations was to establish a downtown parking district.
In 1976, Ballot Measure 53 established a Downtown Parking District. Ballot Measure 53 provided stable funding for the downtown organization (Salem Downtown Association) and allowed the city to remove the downtown’s on-street parking meters in exchange for the downtown businesses paying an annual tax.
Chapter 7 of the Salem Revised Code lays out the definitions and methodology for the City of Salem to collect a tax from the downtown businesses annually.
Chemeketa and Liberty Parking structures were built in 1980 and 1981 and Marion Parkade was completed in 1987.
Today, the city collects $540,000 annually from downtown employees who purchase monthly parking permits, $388,000 from the Parking tax paid by businesses, and $494,000 from ground floor tenant’s rents located in the garages. To view how those funds are spent please visit the Downtown Parking Fund and Leasehold Fund.
Why are there two funds for the garages? Chemeketa and Liberty Parkades were built with Urban Renewal bonds. When construction was almost complete, the city ran out of bond money, so they borrowed the remaining funds from a local bank. The bank required the city to set aside an income stream dedicated to paying back the loan – so the City set up the “Leasehold Fund” to pay back the loan. The loan has been paid off for over a decade.