Schaumburg mayoral candidates debate need for convention center parking deck
The need for and ability to fund a six-level parking deck to serve both the Schaumburg Convention Center and a proposed entertainment district to the north of it were among the issues debated at a candidates forum for the village's three mayoral hopefuls Saturday moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area.
Candidates Tom Dailly, Nafees Rahman and Matthew Steward also addressed a long-considered performing arts center to anchor such an entertainment district.
"I do agree it requires better parking," Steward said of the convention center. "I went to the Mecum Auto Auction there this past year and (the parking) was atrocious."
But Steward said he disagrees with the originally proposed site for the parking deck in the northwest corner of the convention center campus along Meacham Road. Skeptical that patrons of the potential entertainment district to the north would use it anyway, he said he'd prefer the parking deck to be further south on the site reserved for the performing arts center just west of the Renaissance Hotel.
"I think we have sufficient performing arts in the village," Steward said. "I think surrounding areas are struggling with their own performing arts centers."
He favors saving money on the performing arts center and investing it in parking.
A pillar of Rahman's campaign is to reduce the village's debt his research puts at about $500 million, and that takes precedence over any new project, he said.
"The village has reported that parking demand exceeds supply at only at eight annual events at the convention center," he said.
Calculating interest at 3.25 percent, Rahman suggested that paying for a $33 million parking deck over 20 years would actually cost the village $45 million. He added that there's been no financial study to demonstrate the convention center will generate enough income to cover that cost and further balked at the estimated $87 million cost of a performing arts center.
Dailly, as a current trustee on the village board, has previously been vocal about the need for a parking deck but he said Rahman was correct in the number of events requiring remote parking.
"We're on the verge of losing two of them," Dailly said. "It will cost us millions of dollars to have those events go somewhere else. So either build this to support what we've been striving for all these yeas just to have a viable center or we let it go and we lose business."
He suggested the money could come partly from the area's tax-increment finance district to help fund such public improvements and partly from the money already saved for the performing arts center as the parking deck is a more immediate priority.
Dailly called Rahman's description of the village's debt level disingenuous and a scare tactic. In the past, he's pointed to the village has a triple A bond rating, indicating its debt is manageable.
Saturday's forum also included the six candidates competing for three open trustee positions on the Schaumburg village board and the four candidates vying for three open seats on the Schaumburg Township District Library board.
Video of all three sessions is expected to be posted soon to the website of the League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area at lwvpalatinearea.org.