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ROTHENBURGER – The new parking lot, the parking fee hike, and Plan B

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

I SAT in my old office at The Kamloops Daily News yesterday.

Or, rather, I sat in my truck in a parking spot where my old office used to be, thinking about George W. Bush.

By strict coincidence, at almost exactly the same time, the Kamloops Downtown Business Improvement Association was announcing it wants the City to put off the parking-fee increase scheduled for next year.

Back to that in a minute. Though the bulk of the new lot is marked reserved, there were a whole bunch of empty spaces for public parking. Down on Victoria Street a block away, all available spots were taken. We still won’t walk a block.

A few things ran through my head as I sat there. One was, nothing about this feels right. It’s like disrespecting the dead, as though a loved one has passed away and everyone has moved on a little too quickly.

But then George W.’s voice came to me as if in a séance: “The past is over.” I’ve always liked that line. “The past is over,” he said to me as I sat there, right where my desk used to be. It was as if George W. was telling me to get on with life.

So I looked at the nice new pavement, the bricks, the iron fencing and the few spots where bushes will go, and told myself, this is a damn fine parking lot.

The way I see it, the taxpayers of Kamloops spent $5.6 million (including buying the property, demolishing the building and paving it over) for me to park in that lot for 30 minutes while I went for a haircut.

That’s exactly the same as Justin spent on an outdoor hockey rink in front of the Parliament Buildings. Comparisons can be made about the wisdom of either project, but the parking lot will be there a lot longer than the rink.

On the other hand, the rink can be moved somewhere else and used again; the parking lot will be torn up and hauled off to a disposal site. That is, if City fathers and mothers ever come up with a Plan B.

That’s what’s supposed to happen. I’m thinking it won’t. The Kamloops Daily News Memorial Parking Lot (in a burst of creativity, the City has officially named it “St. Paul lot”) is going to become very popular in a short period of time. Shoppers will realize the walk to Victoria Street isn’t much farther than the one from their car to the front door of Walmart on flyer days.

When that happens, finding an open spot on Victoria Street will stop being the most important thing in life.

They’ll figure out that this lot has quite a bit going for it, including the fact it isn’t a parkade. In the new lot, you don’t have to drive around and around without knowing whether you’ll find a spot. You don’t have to hike up and down stairs or take an elevator to get to street level because you’re already there.

Point is, once people come to know it, they’ll like it, and they’re not going to give it up easily. By the time Plan B comes along, if ever, they’re not going to take kindly to being thrown back on the street to endlessly circle the downtown core like Charlie on the MTA.

“We’re not going to spend more millions building a parkade somewhere,” they’ll say. The City will have to find somewhere else to put a performing arts centre.

The reasons given yesterday by the KCBIA for postponing the 25-cent per hour parking rate hike are “negative public perception” about downtown parking, lack of “timely and relevant” information, and no new long-term public parking.

So, says the BIA, no rate increase for one year or, at least, until there’s a parking study or new parking spaces.

I’m not sure what planet the KCBIA is living on. Knowing that the recently proposed $100,000 downtown parking study was rejected because it was wildly unpopular, does the KCBIA think it can get the public onside by lobbying for postponement of an equally unpopular rate increase?

If the City agreed to what the BIA is asking for, as soon as the study was completed, the rate increase would be triggered. So why would anyone want the study to be finished?

As for long-term parking? Well, I was on it yesterday. The “interim” use of the former KDN property will soon become permanent, ergo long-term.

So if the parking-rate increase is going to be postponed, it will have to be unconditional.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published Monday through Thursdays, and Saturdays on CFJC Today, CFJC Midday and CFJC Evening News. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (5557 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

9 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – The new parking lot, the parking fee hike, and Plan B

  1. Daniela O'Fee // December 10, 2017 at 1:34 PM // Reply

    OK Pierre, I suppose downtown is not desperate. I love our dt. Perhaps my comments just reflect my hope that it will not suffer too many vacancies and my hope that the overabundance of parking will somehow help keep businesses open. I agree with you too when you say parking does not necessarily relate to vibrancy. Perhaps it was all a big mistake, but let’s hope our city can learn from it and evolve to create better plans for our public places. I did manage to take a field recording on the last day of KDN Building destruction to serve as sonic historical documentation and a reminder of the massive amount of energy and resources we use to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct.

    • Cindy Ross Friedman // December 10, 2017 at 10:40 PM // Reply

      Very cool that you made a recording and plan to turn it into art/history/science/music. A very fitting tribute to a great building, and a great message about energy usage in cyclic (de)(re) construction.

  2. I visited said completed parking lot yesterday (Saturday) while checking
    out the “festivities” in the three-hundred block of Victoria Street.
    Beside the (not) wrought iron fence (actually flimsy powder-coated aluminum) I could not help it but notice the well-spaced piles of river rocks which seems perfectly laid-out for our resident vandals to use as window-breaking devices. And I wonder if the one chunk of sidewalk (on Fourth Ave) was already being dug-up to accommodate for forgotten items.
    Beside those obvious things I am so relieved for the KCBIA finally got much needed (not) additional parking.
    Just to confirm the additional parking is not needed I wandered down behind Hotel 540, plenty of available parking there. I also wandered down to the Lansdown Village, also plenty of parking available and I also wandered to the parking lot behind our well-built hockey/multi-use arena and even here there was much available parking.
    Plus, while strolling from place to place the on-street parking was not totally occupied.
    Which brings us to the fact Victoria Street has basically two blocks of shops…a semi-good choice of coffee shops, a semi-good choice of places to eat and a few others shops selling various wares. The other blocks of Victoria Street are sporadic but generally in need of “life”.
    The health store is gone and so is the model train store.
    But there is hope. I have read there will be much residential development taking place soon and with it, we hope, vibrancy and retail diversity.
    And lastly, a betterment of the hurban forest, you know the trees and all that stuff.

  3. Daniela O'Fee // December 9, 2017 at 7:33 PM // Reply

    Although the Armchair Mayor Parking Lot is a bleak and urban elegy to the failed Performing Arts Centre, I hope that in the long run it will help our desperate downtown. I don’t resent the lot. It is close to the place I practice yoga at the beautiful Rex building which is in itself a place of culture. The sight lines are also interesting in that it exposes the old post office building with all of its unique architecture. Thank you for your continued posts about our great city.

    • The desperate downtown? What desperate downtown?
      According to the “authorities” there is no “desperate”. I think even Mr. Ex-mayor now MLA was quoted saying the downtown is in fact thriving.
      Beside all that, the downtown sure needs vibrancy in my opinion but it is got nothing to do with parking.
      There is no place in the world where a limitless amount of customers can drive right up to the front door of any given business. The absurdity of the KCBIA in demanding it needs to be completely dismissed and put away for good.

    • I don’t resent the parking lot either. What I resent is the taxpayers of Kamloops spent $5.6 million (including buying the property, demolishing the building and paving it over) for this. Buying the former KDN building, and ending up like this was a giant waste of money by a city council that would have tying its shoes some days. At least the former mayor has had the chance to rise to his level of incompetence.

  4. At least with the building on site, snow removal wasn’t a big problem.
    When the first big dump of snow comes, let’s see how long it takes to make those prepaid spots available.
    A plow, front end loader and truck plus city paid staff.
    Remember, the snow is NOT supposed to be pushed out onto the travelled portion of the roadway.
    This could have the makings of a good editorial sooner or later, Mel.

  5. What would Kamloops be without the Armchair Mayor?
    One day, a long way from now, I will propose the area be renamed the MR Memorial park(ing)…just one small token tribute to the “man!”
    But I am wondering (and I am super-serious) why isn’t the KCBIA retaining you as the wise consultant? Why not?

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