The city’s downtown parking management plan will not be completed in time to quell voter concerns before the April 4 referendum on the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts.
However, the city continues to state that downtown parking is a separate issue from the proposed arts centre.
“Parking, as far as the performing-arts centre specifically, is not an issue,” City of Kamloops community and protective services director Byron McCorkell told KTW.
McCorkell was at a Thursday night information session on the proposed arts centre, hosted by the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association. About 60 people turned up for the event, held at Bible Truth Church on Fraser Street, including Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society members, residents, city staff and councillors.
The issue of parking arose during the question and answer portion of the two-hour event, at which time the society took a step back from the microphone and let the city handle concerns. Citing a recently released parking study, McCorkell said the city’s core has sufficient stalls (3,500) to accommodate an arts centre.
The issue of downtown parking, he said, continues to be with employees during the day. McCorkell said he is not concerned about stalls at night, noting the arts centre would only require 250 spaces and that people forget the area was previously home to a pair of movie theatres. In addition, Sandman Centre (a 5,400-seat arena) was built with 300 stalls.
McCorkell said that while the number of stalls is not at issue, existing parking spots could be better managed.
To that end, the city is working on a parking management strategy. The city has said in the past that it could include adjusting parking rate structures, placing a premium on parking in areas of highest demand (similar to how parking is operated at Thompson Rivers University, where it is cheaper to park in Lot N because it is located farthest from most buildings.)
USING TECHNOLOGY TO FIND PARKING SPOTS
In addition, information released on Thursday night revealed the city will use technology to help address the parking issue downtown. The new Flowbird parking app allows the city to integrate private parking stalls into its inventory, McCorkell explained. The city plans to work out agreements with downtown property owners to open up unused private parking spaces, which may be reserved for private use for 24 hours, but are only used for portions of the day.
For example, Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society president and downtown accountant Norm Daley has 38 private parking stalls around his building, located across from city hall. McCorkell told KTW that using the Flowbird app, Daley could sell those stalls at night, when the parking spaces are not utilized. Former mayor Terry Lake said the issue of downtown parking has reverberated at city hall for two decades. He agreed with McCorkell, stating the major difference now lies in new available technology.
“Today, we can optimize parking in a way we never could with technology available,” Lake told the crowd. “We have to get out of our minds this idea that there has to be a parking space 24/7, whenever we need it. With technology, you get it when you need it. … We just don’t need to build $40,000 parking spaces to optimize parking in downtown Kamloops.” (The city estimates surface parking stalls to cost $10,000 each and underground parking stalls to cost $40,000 apiece.)
Still, as the city plans to complete its parking management plan by the end of June, it was suggested during Thursday’s event that the city release a preliminary report in advance of the referendum.
McCorkell maintains it’s not necessary.
“It’s not going to answer that question,” McCorkell told KTW. “They’re trying to suggest that the performing-arts centre is going to create enough capacity issue downtown that we’ve got a parking problem. It’s not. … We have a parking management problem, yes. But it’s not at night, it’s during the day.”
Coun. Mike O’Reilly was also at the meeting, alongside council colleagues Dale Bass and Bill Sarai. Asked if he would push for an interim parking management report in advance of the referendum, O’Reilly said he would if it was available. He said he would not want it to be released too soon if it were to sway voters before the referendum and be followed by a final report that differs from the interim document.