Parking structures a means to a greater end
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Stefano Grande
April 18, 2011
Judging by the editorials and news stories regarding the City of Winnipeg investing in building more parkades, you would think the fortune of downtown revitalization is directly linked to creating more parking spaces.
Let’s be clear: The end goal of this good public policy is not about, nor should it ever be about, simply building parkades. The need for parkades should only be mentioned in passing as the means to stimulating what really needs to be talked about. And that is creating very dense, mixed-use developments and redevelopments and incredible public spaces for people to live, work, play, and just hang out and walk around in our downtown. In other words, city-funded parkades are a tool to revitalizing downtown districts.
If parkades — even well-designed ones — are built solely as stand-alone structures to service existing and future demands of existing businesses, it’s safe to say this significant public investment won’t leverage what it could in regard to taxes, jobs, economic development and downtown vibrancy. Nor will it take us closer to building a sustainable downtown. This public investment in parkades should not only stimulate more development, but should also be undertaken in a manner that is fully integrated with the downtown’s transit, pedestrian and bike networks, wherever possible. Let’s give Winnipeggers options.
And by working with surrounding building and surface parking lot owners adjacent to these new investments, whose own reinvestment may have been stymied by the high cost of creating parking or development costs, perhaps even more revitalization can take place by simply asking these owners how they see their role in supporting the vision for the district.
With the availability of the new TIF financing tool, incentives could also be provided to these owners to cope with the higher cost of downtown renovation and construction.
While scattered but steady and incremental steps have been the calling card of downtown revitalization in Winnipeg, it’s time to think bigger and set out a clearer vision that embodies building more compact destinations, greater density, a mixed-use, sustainable and planned approach, and world-class designed environment that will stir the souls of Winnipeggers, and have the private sector salivate over the opportunity to build and redevelop in manner that brings us closer to our vision, and much more quickly.
In the end it’s all about people. More people living, working, shopping and just hanging out in these incredibly built spaces. And the cars? Well, they would be parked somewhere.
Stefano Grande is the executive director of the Downtown BIZ