The City of St. John’s is in negotiations with two private developers to try to address the lack of parking downtown.
Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay represents the area and is chairman of the city’s planning committee.
He told The Telegram the need for more parking downtown has been an issue for a number of years.
The Downtown Development Commission (DDC) and the city first met to discuss the issue in 2006. In 2008, city council approved to cost share a $100,000 study of the parking situation with the DDC.
The study found an immediate need for 500 new parking spaces for the area.
More recently, council gave city staff the authority to negotiate agreements with Eastport Properties and Henry Bell Developments, who are both in the process of erecting parking garages in the downtown as part of other developments. Both projects have excess parking spaces which could be used by the public.
Galgay said council gave no specific parameters to staff about what kind of deal may be acceptable, but he said any agreement would be publically debated and approved at a city council meeting.
“We’ve given (staff) direction to negotiate the best possible deal, with everything on the table,” Galgay said. “I think it’s vitally important now, at this stage in our development, that we grasp the opportunity to co-operate with developers ... who are building parking garage structures and have surplus parking spaces.”
Galgay said any deal would have to benefit the city as a whole.
“If we can negotiate something that’s acceptable to council ... then we will provide hopefully 462 (parking) spaces which will address the present need,” he said.
Eastport is redeveloping the former Woolworths building on Water street into an office building and will have 246 extra parking stalls. Henry Bell plans to build condominiums at the former CBC building on Duckworth Street, which will add another 216 public parking spaces.
“If (the city) solely had to build parking lots or parking garages ourselves, I would assume it would cost significant amounts, millions of dollars,” said Galgay.
As city continues to grow, the need for more parking is likely to increase.
“It will be an ongoing problem that will have to be addressed,” Galgay added.
With the city’s budget preparations for the coming year on the horizon, and a projected deficit on the books, Galgay said any deal will be evaluated closely.
But he said public parking is an important service the city provides, along with water and sewer, garbage collection, road work and snow clearing.
“With that service comes a dollar figure or an expenditure,” he said.
Galgay also noted that Fortis Properties is building a 12-story office building at the former Horwood Lumber property.
He said there may be an opportunity to open that building’s parking lot up to patrons of Mile One Centre, or other downtown businesses, after hours. But Galgay said that would be up to the company.