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The Globe and Mail

Vancouver Council’s car-centric endorsement would be surprising

A truck enters a parking garage in the rear of a Gastown condominium at 60 West Cordova in Vancouver June 4, 2012.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

City council is considering a staff-endorsed plan to enter a 99-year lease for a five-storey underground parking garage next to Rogers Arena, despite recent commitments to cut down on car traffic in Vancouver.

The parking lot would be built beneath the Georgia viaduct between Griffiths Way and Abbott Street. The lease's market value has been assessed by city real estate services at $1.27-million, representing significant revenue from land that currently goes unused because of the viaduct above.

Councillors will review a report from staff on Tuesday morning that recommends the lease with Pacific Coast Arena Incorporated, a company owned by the Aquilini Investment Group, which owns the Vancouver Canucks. The site is adjacent to an above-ground parking lot already owned by PCA.

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"Right now there is no revenue being generated by that site at all," said City Councillor Geoff Meggs. "It's hard to imagine revenue could be generated by an under-street allowance for any other purpose given the circumstances here."

Mr. Meggs also said that he hears complaints from residents about a lack of parking in the area, and that "current parking availability around Rogers Arena and BC Place is far less than what you'd find most other cities."

The report does not indicate the specific purpose of the parking lot, but it likely has little to do with accommodating sports fans.

Other proposals for at least one more new tower are currently in the consultation and approval process, and it's unclear how the area will accommodate increased demand for parking spaces from new residents and companies moving into the towers. Currently, surface lots around Rogers Arena and BC Place are being used for day parking.

"A lot of parking already occurs on the undeveloped land east of the arena. Eventually that area will be developed, so the availability of surface parking is only going to decline," Mr. Meggs said. "A new underground would really help ease pressure on public and private spaces at street level."

Vancouver city staff's endorsement of the lease is surprising considering recent attempts to significantly reduce car traffic downtown and a pledge to have less than half of trips downtown made in cars by 2020.

In 1997, Vancouver capped the number of public parking spaces at 35,000 city-wide in an effort to begin transitioning away from cars and in 2011, a 35-per-cent tax increase on parking led to a surprisingly drastic decrease in the use of public spaces downtown.

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But Mr. Meggs points out the city has little control over private parking entities, and he feels that many residents would welcome additional parking availability as density continues to increase around Rogers Arena and BC Place.

The report also requires PCA to build the underground lot to sustain heavy equipment and long-term construction projects on the street above, as the Georgia viaduct could be removed in the coming years. If the viaduct is removed, available space above the parking lot will likely be developed as well.

PCA was unavailable for comment on the proposed project and city report.

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