Saving Parkades – the sequal

It is worse than I thought. This story expands on the Downtown Business Improvement Associations rally to save the Parkade that I blogged about last week. 

It is not just that the BIA wants to save the Parkade, some of them also want the bike lanes and back-in angle parking gone from Columbia, all in the effort to – you guessed it – get traffic moving. 
I have already talked about the Parkade, and don’t want to be more repetitive on the topic. However, Dr. Shannon from the BIA does make a few interesting points. 

First, he has repeated the claim that the Parkade was built by the Merchants, and I honestly have not been able to find any records of this on-line. Can anyone provide a reference for me on this? I’m not disputing it, but am just curious about the history.

Second, his acknowledgement of, and immediate dismissal of, the “eyesore” status of the Parkade is interesting. “Who sees it?”, he asks rhetorically. I tell you who sees it: every person who visits Downtown New Westminster. Every person who goes to the new Pier Park. Everyone who goes the the Discovery Centre or the River Market. Everyone who drives across the Pattullo Bridge or rides the Skytrain over from Surrey. How many of those people, you think, see that and think to themselves ” Hmmm… That looks like a nice place to go shopping”? 

Again, I agree with Dr. Shannon that the Parkade should not be removed without a plan to accommodate the Downtown Merchants’ realistic parking needs, but with the end goal of removing the Parkade to improve our waterfront and all of Downtown. Maybe instead of seeking legal opinions, the Merchants should spend their money on doing a practical parking needs assessment, and coming up with ideas on how to manage their parking needs (or even, gasp, look at ideas to promote Downtown New Westminster to the thousands of people who pass through each day on Skytrain, or to the hundreds of thousands that are only a short Skytrain ride away?) 

The BIA approach to Columbia Street really has me scratching my head. I cannot believe that the members want Columbia changed back to how it was 10 years ago, just as Downtown is seeing the benefits of the road diet. Is the organizational memory so short that they don’t remember a congested 4-lane Columbia as even less pleasant than a congested 2-lane Columbia? Do they really want to step back to the 1980s? 

As is said before, I just don’t get the thinking. The Parkade was a failed attempt to keep a 1950s business model (mom driving the family car down Main Street to stop at the green grocer and the butcher while dad was at work) alive, as shopping centers and malls in the suburbs took over. This model is not coming back. Malls with ample free parking exist. Big Box Retail with ample free parking exists – even here in New Westminster, as evidenced by our City Councilors lining up to cut the ribbon on the new Lowes. 

So who are these customers the BIA are trying to attract? What do they have that the Mall and the Big Box doesn’t have? What will bring people down to New Westminster’s Downtown in the 21st Century? Surely, it isn’t the Parkade.

3 comments on “Saving Parkades – the sequal

  1. “Who sees it?”, he asks rhetorically. I tell you who sees it: every person who visits Downtown New Westminster.

    This is true right here. A few months ago, a friend of mine visited from Ontario; I was taking him around, showing him the views off the parkade – since it is a really nice place to view the river, after all – and he told me it was dilapidated. Honestly, I think he’s right. The parkade is like a big old rug that the buildings along Front Street have been swept under.

    Besides, when it was built, to what degree were structures built with seismic resistance in mind? Personally, every time I see the supports of that thing it looks like it’s just waiting for the right time to come down.

    As for the whole issue of business being reliant on parking spaces and things like bicycle lanes being death to merchants – how has that been on Hornby, anyway? I seem to recall a big fuss last year that the separated bike lane would kill businesses there. Did anything come of that?

  2. We don’t have to worry about Hornby. the NPA ran a campaign for Mayor and Council based on hatred of bike lanes and urban farming, and got roundly defeated.

    I think that the Columbia Street experiment is a better one than Hornby, and the evidence is that the street is looking way better than it did 10 years ago. the street diet is a big part of this.

  3. I remember seeing a calendar in my colleague’s cubicles of the ugliest parking structure I had ever seen. I did not register with me at the time, but since it was one of those single picture, year long calendars and looked at it again and again over the year when I went to talk to him. At one point in the year I finally decided to look more carefully at it and try to figure out where they would build such an ugly looking structure along a river? Pittsburgh or somewhere else in the rust belt? I was pretty shocked when I realized it was a centerfold for the New Westminster parkade…

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