It might be possible to design a beautiful parkade — I’ve just never seen one.
I’ve seen parkades that are less ugly than others, where designers have given it the old college try, working in some brick, a little glass, maybe even a store or two on the sidewalk side. But, let’s face it, parkades are dreary places, caverns where the sun seldom shines, where plant life is impossible. Concrete mazes where old chewing gum and urine and cigarette butts rule.
Parkades, in short, are the very definition of necessary evil.
In Kamloops, we have a few parkades. The two downtown — Lansdowne Street and Seymour Street — relics of the ’70s, cement boxes with no redeeming architectural value. They had some costly structural upgrades a few years ago, but they remain what they are — unattractive places where you park your car.
The Royal Inland Hospital parkade is actually hated by many, but that’s because of the pay-parking system, not the utilitarian design of the parkade, in which you drive around in circles for several minutes hoping to find a spot before you exit out the other end.
The Civic Building (art gallery, library and TNRD) has an underground parkade but the public can’t park there because it was designed about 10 per cent as big as it should be.
One might say parkades don’t have to be beautiful. They’re like cheap hotel rooms; you only spend time there after you’ve been somewhere else working or shopping, so who cares?
Would you care if the City of Kamloops was to build a honking big parkade on the street right in front of Riverside Park? Try to visualize it.
I’m trying. At this week’s City council workshop, a tentative plan was presented for exactly that. The City’s engineering department has tried to come up with something that will look half decent, with some landscaping.
But it’s right in front of Heritage House, and it’s going to be controversial, and it’s probably not going to be pretty, though a public consultation process hasn’t been figured out yet.
We don’t really have any idea what it will look like, either (City real estate manager Dave Freeman acknowledged yesterday the plan as it sits “has been called a doodle.”)
There are competing interests here. One is the need to maintain a vibrant, worker- and visitor-friendly downtown that’s easy to get in and out of. Not to mention a crying need for more parking for Interior Savings Centre.
The other is protection of Riverside Park.
On the second, I don’t believe the park would suffer from some thoughtful development. Some commercial operations already exist there, and a waterfront hotel attached to ICS would have been a huge benefit.
But I worry about uglifying the adjacent area with another parkade. I say another, because the new Sandman on the corner of Third and Lorne will have a parkade of its own.
While the City’s engineering department says using the Heritage House parking lot will save the cost of purchasing new land for a parkade, fact is the City once owned the land on which the Sandman will be built — and that land was acquired specifically for parking.
Yet, when the City instead sold it to Tom Gaglardi, there were no strings with respect to public parking.
In 2008, we wrote in an editorial: “It (the hotel) will be good for tourism, and it will be good for downtown business. And it will provide the city with a central meeting place for major events. But the deal is not without its question marks.
“It‘s troubling, for example, that the sale is not conditional on a minimum number of parking spots being reserved for public use at arena events. Parking has been a weakness of the arena’s location ever since its construction, and the Levesque property (the land purchased and then sold by the City to Gaglardi) offered at least a partial solution.
“Now, though, Gaglardi will have the final say on parking. According to City Hall, it will work with Gaglardi to examine the parking issue, but clearly there are no guarantees. A third downtown parkade was supposed to be completed five years ago.
“Not planned, not started, but completed. It’s long overdue, and the property in question is ideally located — incorporated into the hotel plans, it could double as daytime parking for the downtown area, and night parking for arena and Riverside Park events.”
Clearly, no such arrangement has been negotiated. The failure to provide public parking within the Sandman deal has never been explained. And now, we could well have parkades across the street from each other butting up against our number one park.