An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
NOT TO BELABOR the KDN building issue — well, okay, let’s belabor it a bit — tearing down the building for a few parking spaces remains a questionable decision on the part of Kamloops City council.
A couple of online polls show it’s not a popular option, and suggest the city’s taxpayers think council should try harder to make use of the building instead of knocking it over. The cost for demolition and pavement is estimated at $1.1 million, but it won’t be a big surprise if bids come in higher.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s say the job ends up costing taxpayer $1.5 million. Members of council who voted for the teardown — and that’s almost all of them — offer the comfort that, some day, the property could still be used for a worthy municipal project.
Let’s say that project is a version of the Performing Arts Centre project. The pavement would have to be torn up, erasing the $1.5-million investment in parking. Then, a PAC would be constructed, at a much higher cost per square foot than the original proposal, accounting for inflation.
The situation is reminiscent of the Sandman Centre arena, originally named Riverside Coliseum. In the mid-1980s a referendum was put to voters for a $50-million complex that, due to very substantial senior-government funding, would have cost local taxpayers only $10 million.
The project was narrowly defeated, but just a couple of years later a much smaller project that included only the arena was approved for more than twice the local share of the original plan.
The Kamloops Centre BIA is all in favour of the KDN teardown because, as president Mike O’Reilly asked when he appeared before council, where else are the parking spaces supposed to come from?
The answer, of course, is that they would come from underground parking incorporated into a new project at the site, yielding more spaces than surface parking will.
An online poll on ArmchairMayor.ca showed that almost 72 per cent of those taking part thought council should continue searching for a better idea for the property. A similar poll on CHNL is trending close to 60 per cent against the parking-lot option.
The reason is clear: wasting prime downtown real estate on a temporary parking lot is a bad idea.