Sunday, February 3, 2013

Freeloading at City Hall

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

The empty civic parkade begged the question: Where did those displaced find parking spaces?

I had heard of some councillors getting rental space in the very tiny Centennial Centre indoor parking. Other councillors found space at the Bedford Parkade two blocks away on King Street. Many staff had to take a commuter bus from the Centennial Library even further away.

The Centennial Centre was renovated as recently as 2010. I can find no listing of how many spaces are there but I can't imagine it is more than a hundred. And most of the those spaces are allocated already to provincial employees of either the Museum or Concert Hall.

The mayor and a few councillors managed to get space there. The rest managed to find spots in the recently built five floor parkade at King Street (There is also a heated underground part of the lot).

I'll bet city councillors would have never bet they would need the Bedford Parkade this badly when they gave it $1.5 million three years ago. The parkade also got $500,000 for CentreVenture. This created 160 parking spaces in a building the city had allowed to fall apart in years previous.

The Civic Parkade was a 450 stall parkade. The Centennial Centre's possible 100 and Bedford's 160 stalls barely scratch the surface of what was lost.

The Grain Exchange Parkade has around 270 spaces but that has a lot of stalls spoken for by the Portage and Main crowd and it isn't exactly that close to City Hall. Nor would it be appropriate for city police cars.

The police and some city fleet vehicles have had to take over the space on James Avenue for the 134 cars they have lost space for. There is also an underground component to the Civic Parkade that is used for an undisclosed amount of police cars. I am still not sure what the structural integrity of that underground portion is.

How did we get here?

It was years of a tax freeze and taking money from the parking authority to balance budgets without fixing city owned infrastructure. The fire sale auction of the Winnipeg Square Parkade is directly related to the city's need for money and not wanting to invest in upgrading the lot.

And are we talking about what will happen next? No.

The budget is passed and I assume that what we are waiting for is the police to move to their new building on Graham Avenue. At that point, maybe some hard questions will come in regards to what to do with Public Safety Building and the Civic Parkade.

It has been pointed out the land must remain public and the city has no right to sell it off. Once the police go, the buildings are likely to be cost a lot to maintain as we have seen from the Kapyong Barracks debacle.

Ultimately, the decision to do something will have to come down to council.  If they were even more inconvenienced, that decision might be sooner. But how inconvenienced are they? A heated spot at Centennial and underground walkway to council is not bad. A little more inconvenient at Bedford Parkade but perhaps a little less bitter in the underground heated part.

A bus trip from Centennial Library daily would probably have resulted in an emergency meeting and a budget of tens of millions for a new parkade.

In some cases, free loaders have the best space in town.

The Free Press picture of Phil Sheegl is the inevitable conclusion of the question of where are city officials parking now.

It is hard to believe that no one considered it. Or more likely they didn't care or figured it would not be important enough for people to care. How anyone thought parking permanently at a loading dock made good business sense, political sense or safety sense is beyond me.

I am sure the reaction from the top official is suck a lemon.

There are 450 parking spaces no longer in place for City Hall campus. If Joe or Jane Citizen need to do business with civic officials, they are fresh out of luck for spots close by. It isn't good enough telling people to use public transit. One day we might have that type of public transportation system but that day isn't here yet.

It is highly likely that if the Public Safety Building and Civic Parkade come down that we will see at least a $50 million structure.

The Tecumseh Parkade completed in 2009 cost $40 million at Health Science Centre.

Tecumseh Parkade at HSC
You can bet that we won't hear this bitter pill till after the next city election. However, a decision will have to made when people here it costs hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions to keep the decaying ruins of these buildings up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, who cares. Slow news day? Nothing more important to report on then where some guy parks his car?