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Victoria councillors float idea of new parkade at north end of downtown

There’s a lot of pressure on the city to provide parking, but it still needs to keep the core area livable, says Coun. Dave Thompson
A motion set to go to Victoria council suggests the development of new parking north of downtown could be funded by the sale and redevelopment of an existing parkade such as the one at Centennial Square. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Two Victoria city councillors are floating the idea of doing something the city hasn’t considered in more than 35 years — building a new parkade.

Councillors Dave Thompson and Matt Dell plan to bring a motion to council’s Thursday committee of the whole meeting to have city staff explore establishing a new parkade or increased public parking on the north end of downtown.

Thompson said with more than 8,000 people moving into the capital region each year, there’s a lot of pressure on the city to provide parking, but it still needs to keep the core area livable.

“If we can have that parking happen elsewhere, if we can have fewer vehicles running around downtown, I think that’s going to be a win for everyone,” Thompson said.

Thompson and Dell’s motion suggests new parking north of downtown could be funded by the sale and redevelopment of an existing parkade such as the one at Centennial Square.

If council goes ahead with a new parkade, it would be the first downtown parkade since the Victoria Conference Centre was opened in 1989, although that parking facility is not run by the city.

The last city-operated parkade to be built was the parking under the Greater Victoria Public Library central branch, which opened in the 1980s.

Parking downtown has become more of a challenge in recent years as the city has seen a boom in development, and several private parking lots were converted to mixed-use or residential development projects.

Jeff Bray, chief executive of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, estimates the city has lost about 2,200 parking spaces over the past eight years, the vast majority through development of private land.

The city estimates about 200 parking spaces have been removed due to the bike-lane network, though many have been relocated and the city still lists 1,950 on-street parking spots.

Bray said he loves the fact city council seems to be focused on downtown and improving things for visitors, residents and businesses, and he hopes having staff dig into parking could generate ideas to improve access to downtown.

“Parking is cited as an issue and it has been since the first automobile, but increasingly our members have identified that the complaints they get from their customers and clients is drivability,” he said.

“Yes, it’s hard to find parking but it’s also really hard to navigate, drive around downtown.”

He said streets being closed to traffic, bike priority lanes, new directions, signals and patterns have all combined to make getting around a little more challenging.

“I do think that we need to have a look at it all, and I would say without a doubt, we need an additional parkade,” he said.

Bray said it’s important that the city does not “choke off vehicle capacity to the point where people say: ‘I don’t even bother going downtown anymore.’ ”

Bray may relish the idea of a new parkade, but he’s not as enthusiastic about the thought of it coming at the expense of an existing one, such as the parking garage at Centennial Square.

But Thompson said it’s important to keep all options on the table.

“We’re saying to staff: ‘Go away and think about this for a while and come back with your suggestions,’ ” he said.

Thompson said he has heard concerns about council approving residential development near downtown without adequate parking, but added: “At the same time, I look at the numbers and I see 40 per cent of downtown households are already car-free. Almost half of our downtown households are figuring out other ways to get around.”

Thompson said it’s important to envision what the city will look like in 20 or 30 years.

“I would love to have a vibrant core area where it’s super welcoming to tourists and to residents, and it’s actually a pleasure to be there instead of being a couple of highways that lead to parking garages.”

The motion suggests staff could also look at using bikes, transit and micro-mobility transportation like e-kick scooters to bring people into downtown from a parking area at the north end of the core.

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