St. John’s Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff may not get her wish that the Atlantic Place parking garage would one day implode, but she will get to see its transformation.
The Department of Municipal Affairs has given the city permission to amend its regulations that will allow the construction of a three-storey hotel on top of the existing eight-storey parking garage at 1 Clift’s-Baird’s Cove between Harbour Drive and Water Street next to Atlantic Place.
The city must now host a meeting, scheduled for July 4 at 7 p.m., to give the public a chance to have its say on the project and the proposed changes to city regulations.
Dubbed the APP Hotel, Duff said recently she was impressed with the design — created by architect Philip Pratt on behalf of Sonco Group Inc.
“I used to hope that one day I’d be wheeled down there in a wheelchair and see it imploded because it is such an ugly building,” she said.
“But I was actually quite amazed and pleased to see what they brought in with the proposal for the hotel. It is very creative,” Duff said.
Documentation provided to the city says the boutique hotel will have up to 150 rooms, a main entrance on Harbour Drive and a two-level atrium to the Water Street level.
“On balance, we believe that this is a good project for the owner and the city,” reads Sonco’s proposal, entitled Hidden in Plain View.
“It adds value for both, improves the overall image of the garage in its context, animates the area with more activity, protects the parking and, as an infill, there is very little extra stress on infrastructure.”
All are reasons why St. John’s Coun. Tom Hann supports the project.
“It’s a solution to cleaning up the look of the Atlantic Place parking garage. It is a nice-looking, three-storey hotel on top of the building — on top of the parking garage — which will bring it up to the same height as Atlantic Place and it will not affect any views,” said the chairman of the planning and housing standing committee.
The proposal says the parking garage will be covered with mesh screening, which “will give colour and texture to the building and improve its overall look.”
There is also special lighting proposed to make the building more esthetically appealing.
“Once they get that done I think it will improve the look of the building significantly,” said Hann.
The one concern the deputy mayor has, which has nothing to do with the hotel proposal, goes back to when the garage was built more than four decades ago to complement the commercial development at Atlantic Place.
“One of the issues for me has always been with Harbour Drive. The sidewalks on that side are very narrow and it’s actually dangerous, and one thing about livable cities is they have to be walkable cities,” Duff said.
Hann said the developer has also considered that and is proposing to put recessed brick on the ground floor so the sidewalk will be wider.
Duff, who sits on the committee with Hann, said the committee has asked city staff if it’s possible to narrow the traffic lanes in order to provide more space for pedestrians.
“So cars will have to sacrifice a little bit of space to people, which I think will be great,” she said.
According to the documentation, 50 parking spaces of the 720 now available in the garage will be lost to the development.
The project was largely in response to a process initiated by the city in 2011 to make changes to its regulations so it could restrict the use of the parking garage.
“We wanted to confirm that site would remain a parking garage,” said Hann. “We were saying leave the bottom alone. What they do on top is up to them, within the discretion of the city.”
A planning memo says Sonco’s objective “is to balance the needs of the city with those of the property owner by securing a large number of parking spaces for public rental while allowing for the opportunity to generate additional income for the owner.”
The application may be viewed at the city’s department of planning, development and engineering.
Anyone wishing to make a submission to the public meeting must provide a signed written statement to the city clerk’s department either by mail (P.O. Box 908, St. John’s, NL A1C 5M2), fax (709-576-8474) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).