White Rock is to explore the feasibility of a new underground parking structure in the uptown area beneath a planned public park beside Coast Capital Playhouse.
At Monday night’s meeting, council members unanimously endorsed a motion from Coun. David Chesney requesting that council direct city staff to prepare a business case for an underground parking structure to be located at 1510 Johnston Rd., (at the intersection of Johnston Road and Russell Avenue) the site of the future arts and pedestrian-friendly ‘Town Square’ park.
Coun. Grant Meyer and Mayor Wayne Baldwin were not present at the meeting.
Chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill – who confirmed that staff had already been looking at the possibility of constructing an underground parking facility as an option during redevelopment of the former gas station site as a park – said he believed a report could be compiled in time for the Sept. 17 deadline specified in Chesney’s motion.
Bottrill said that, in the interim, the city will open the site – which has been leased as a pay-parking lot to raise funds for local Rotary Club projects for more than a decade – as a free public parking lot as of Aug. 1, as soon as the current lease expires.
The proposed parking facility would be in addition to the city’s four-storey parkade currently under construction on the waterfront, and existing parking provided uptown at the White Rock Community Centre.
Chesney said he was asking for a costing-out of the concept of putting parking below the planned green space for at least one to two levels underground.
“As our town centre grows, we will be constantly challenged with parking for people visiting our community,” Chesney said, noting that remediation work would have to be done to remove contaminants from the site . “We would be well advised to move forward at this point to at least look at what the cost would be.”
“Every time we do something we’re always taking a look at the options,” Bottrill told council following questions from Coun. Lynne Sinclair – who said she supported the idea – on how prepared staff would be to put forward a business case.
“We don’t have all the information in terms of the remediation,” Bottrill said. “However, having said that, if we were going to excavate the site we would be removing contaminated soil in any event, so that would probably assist with any kind of remediation.”
Couns. Helen Fathers and Bill Lawrence also spoke in support of the motion; Lawrence wondering if the possibility of even more underground levels could be explored.
“Maybe three or four (levels) would be something to take a look at,” he said. “Taking into consideration not only park attendees, but also all the other businesses, I think there is definitely a need for businesses in the town centre to get a little bit more in the way of parking.”
Chesney said he viewed one or two levels as “a starting point for staff, but I don’t think it needs to be restricted to that.”
The property was acquired by the city through expropriation in April of this year. The square, once complete, is to include a level programmable area with tables, chairs, shade trees and other “pedestrian-friendly features,” according to the city.
The lot is also to include public art and a venue for special events.
The property, previously owned by Imperial Oil, which was conducting tests on the site as recently as this January, has been vacant for more than 20 years.
The purchase price is yet to be determined, but White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said earlier this year that “no money from taxes will be put in there.”
– with files from Aaron Hinks