Let me make sure I understand. After years of deliberation, the best our City planners can come up with for the old Kamloops Daily News building is to tear it down and put up a parking lot? It’s hardly paradise as it sits now, so my thoughts of Joni Mitchell really don’t apply, but I am totally floored that we are going to solve the problems of the downtown core by not only putting up a parking lot, but a surface parking lot that does little to address the overall problem.
And there are two problems. Parking first. We are short a couple of hundred parking spaces downtown because, despite all the money we’ve put into mass transit, people still prefer to drive by themselves and try to find a parking spot. The good residents of Kamloops turned down a proposal for a parkade in Riverside Park. And yet they continue to whine about downtown parking. One of the reasons the City bought the old Daily News building was to increase parking space, but they put things on hold until they could examine other alternatives. Apparently none of the proposals they got last year were workable. We don’t know what those proposals were, because City policy precludes them from telling us. Fair enough. So now we’re back to square one, and we’re going to spend 1.1 million dollars to demolish the building and put in a surface parking lot. On top of the 4.8 million we paid for the building in the first place, we’re now looking at 6 million dollars for a surface, one-level parking lot. I am interested to see what the payback is for that. It is good that at least we can keep options open in case some better idea comes along in the future, but it is totally beyond the scope of my imagination that this is the best alternative we could come up with for that piece of property.
Which brings me to problem number two. The downtown core is badly in need of something to bring people downtown. Aside from the Sandman Centre and Riverside Park, there is little. I have a couple of my favorite restaurants there, but aside from that, what would bring me downtown? Our only performing arts space, our main convention centre, our Casino, our University, our major shopping centre, all located outside of the downtown. We have some nice shops, but they in themselves are not enough to bring people downtown in the numbers needed for businesses to survive. Something on that Daily News site would have been great. I understand that the taxpayers spoke, but most taxpayers sadly have little grasp of long-term planning needs, the need for a vibrant downtown, until it’s too late. We were able to get the Sandman Centre built, but we almost blew that too, because taxpayers didn’t get the long term picture. And we spent a lot more in the long run that we could have had for less if we’d approved the original proposal for that space. City Council needs to lead the way on these things, but have done precious little of it for the past few years.
If we are going to ensure that our downtown stays alive, and grows, rather than diminishes, we need more than a surface parking lot. We need visionaries to attract investment, to develop partnerships, to forge ahead to keep our City strong. Those visionaries seem to be sadly lacking, both within the structure of City Hall, and around the council table as well.