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Pay2Park to take over Main Place Mall parking garage

Pay2Park, the parking lot operator owned by developer Mark Croce, is taking over the management of the Main Place Tower parking garage, gaining more than 1,000 spaces in an expansion of the 12-year-old brand.

Pay2Park will take over the operation as of July 1, when the ownership of the parking facility reverts from the city to the building's owner, Main Place Liberty Group.

The garage had been run by Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, a nonprofit that manages city-owned parking facilities but is not authorized to oversee privately owned facilities.

The Main Place garage has 1,012 spaces on three underground levels below the mall, with the entrance on Pearl Street. The garage offers monthly and daily parking for Main Place tenants, Erie County, other area businesses and the general public.

Joe Puinno, president of Pay2Park, said Main Place Liberty will set pricing for the future, but added that rates for current monthly customers will remain the same "for at least the balance of the year."

Other policies governing the availability of parking may change, but Croce said they were seeking a "smooth and seamless transition."

"It’s been in the ownership’s interest to have room for transient parkers," Mark Croce said. "It’s our goal to find the proper balance."

The parking garage has been under city control since the complex was built in 1965 with $4.3 million in public funds in return for the city's exclusive right to manage it. Under a conveyance agreement signed in 1969 between the city, Erie County Savings Bank and the Central Buffalo Project Corp., control was slated to revert back to the building owner after 50 years.

Main Place Liberty, an investment group with roots in Hong Kong through Violet Realty, purchased the tower and mall in 1995, but never handled the parking. The firm opted to contract with another firm, and Pay2Park won the bid.

"We are real estate people, first and foremost. We don’t have a ton of experience with parking, so we decided to bring in an experienced parking manager," said Michael J. Manning, Main Place Liberty's vice president of leasing. "We’re looking forward to having a great relationship with Pay2Park and Mark Croce."

Pay2Park originally began in 1998 as part of Croce's Skydeck Corp., with a single 24-space lot, but rebranded in 2007 as it began a rapid expansion. With the addition of Main Place, it will now operate 30 locations with more than 3,500 spaces in the city. Croce said the firm has "four to five other large deals cooking" for further growth.

"We’ve got our sights on a lot of other big potential changes, citywide. There’s a lot on the table and a lot of interest," Croce said. "Access is more important these days, as more demand is created in the city. It’s going to be more important than ever to properly and efficiently run these assets to maximize the opportunities for growth for the City of Buffalo."

For BCAR, meanwhile, the loss of the Main Place garage is the first of three big changes that could reduce its parking tally from 8,400 spaces to 6,550 by 2022. That's when the 457-space garage at One Seneca Tower reverts to Douglas Development Corp. Additionally, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is planning to construct a 201-unit affordable housing complex and downtown grocery on a 375-space parking lot at 201 Ellicott St.

The rest of its facilities will remain publicly owned. "There's a lot of moving parts in all this," said Samuel F. Iraci Jr., BCAR's executive director. "This is part of a lot of parking-related issues."

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