Monday, July 19, 2010

City of Victoria Parkades

The City of Victoria owns or operates five parkades in downtown Victoria.  Oak Bay, Saanich and Esquimalt do not have any.   Time to ask why the City is in the parking business at all and if it were not better for all of us if they sold the parkades.

These are the City Parkades:
  • Bastion Square
  • Centennial Square
  • Johnson Street
  • View Street
  • Broughton Street - I am not certain they own this parkade, they may simply operate it.

Let us ignore the one under the downtown library and look at the other four.   These are properties the City owns and have been left underdeveloped for some decades now.   Not only that, as long as the City owns them, they do no produce property taxes.   Finally, the City is not in the business of running a parking business, this is better done by the private sector.

If one were to sell the four stand alone parkades to someone like Robbins or Impark, the City would free up a lot of capital that is tied up in providing the parking and bring in significant property taxes, this assumes no redevelopment of the sites.   If one were to redevelopment with site appropriate development, Downtown would have more office and retail space and the City would collect even more in property taxes.

The View Street parkade is 2/3s of an acre in size and covers 100% of the lot.   The parkade detracts dramatically from the look and feel of the street.   Given the heights of the buildings around it, it would be reasonable to build a 10 story building on this site.  Build with it an underground parkade going down five floors and you go replace most of the parking that would be lost.

Much the same can be said about the Johnson Street Parkade, though in this case I believe that a redevelopment could work to make the streetscape much more inviting and help revive the fortunes of the block and help build another connection for the flow of people in the downtown.

The Bastion Square or Yates Street parkade is an extreme eyesore in the location where it is.   It actively harms tourism by being so freaking butt ugly in the middle of the Old Town.  The City should seek out someone willing to build something that blends in with the period and provides a walk through connection from the back side of the Maritime Museum to Yates Street.

The parking in the Yates Street Parkade is very important for Old Town, any new development should provide as many parking spaces or more.   The building foot print is 0.38 acres, but next to it there are two spots the City could consider allowing underground parking to expand in to.   First is the courtyard, digging under it would all another 0.09 acres of space for parking.  Second, if the City allowed an underground parkade to extend under Langley street, this would add another 0.1 acres.  The working area would then be 0.57 acres, or 50% more than now.   This would allow the same parking that is currently available in four floors underground.

What sort of building makes sense on the site?   I would think a 7-8 story condo development with ground floor retail.   This would be something in the order of 70 units.  Since the City currently brings in no property taxes, giving a ten year tax holiday to encourage the development would not make a difference to the City bottomline.

The Centennial Square/Fisguard Parkade could be packaged together with the two buildings next to it on Douglas Street.   This site would a total of be close to an acre and is currently woefully underused.   The City archives needs a new home and could be accommodated in a new building.  Seven to eight floors would be in keeping with the look and feel of the area.  With the new Hudson development and the office building on the south east corner, something on this site would pull Downtown up the street some more.

Fisguard would also benefit from this because there could street level life on a stretch of 75 metres that at the moment is dead space.   Building that would make a better connection to and from Chinatown.

The City also has a number of surface parking lots that it owns

  • 820 Courtney Street - Behind the Royal Theatre
  • 900 Wharf Street - this is on the harbour and has benefits because it allows for a large open space on the harbour.
  • 1300 Wharf Street - very few spots and all on monthly passes, the site is mainly a park
  • 1600 Store Street - this is beside the E&N station and not very large
  • 940 Caledonia Street - the parking for Royal Athletic Park

Of the surface lots, most of the ones the city owns make little or no sense to change, but two of them should be considered for some sort of redevelopment.

The lot at the corner of Blanshard and Courtney behind the theatre is just about a 1/4 acre in size and it provides parking for 40 cars.   The property could easily be redeveloped with a five story office building on it with ground floor retail and three floors underground for parking.   This would provide about 5000 square feet of retail, 25,000 square feet of office space, and 90 parking spots.

The Caledonia parking lot is a large waste of space at the moment, it is not used for nearly as much time per day as it should be to justify it as a parking lot.  Currently it is 1 2/3s acres of land providing parking for about 230 cars.   The area of Vancouver Street which runs between the parking lot and Royal Athletic Park is another 1/3 of an acre.  This short section of Vancouver Street has no one depending on it for anything, I should be removed and made better use of.   It strikes me as a good location for a public market.   How would I configure it?   I am not sure, I am aware there needs to some sort of parking continue to be available

The sale of these property should bring the City significant amounts of money, enough to take on some the capital infrastructure projects that need urgent attention.  It will also increase the tax base by enough to make a noticeable difference in the budget.
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