Happy Birthday, Parking Lot

1755proposal

Hey Regina. Long time, no blog. Just checking in to provide a little update on a story we covered the heck out of back in the day.

Remember 1755 Hamilton Street? It was once the site of an apartment building. But city hall let the owners tear it down at the height of the housing crisis, thus putting 46 low-income households out onto the street at a time when the vacancy rate in Regina was functionally zero percent. Then, after that little debacle, council granted the owners a permit to turn the site of that bulldozed apartment block into a surface parking lot even though that’s specifically not permitted under the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan.

Of course, that parking lot permit was supposed to be temporary. For three years only.

We chronicled the whole sorry saga of 1755 Hamilton in some detail, on both the blog and in the paper, in articles titled things like: “Some Parting Thoughts,” “And Housing Becomes Parking,” “Convenient Parking, Well Aren’t You Feeling Real Dirty,” “Westland Tries To Buy Time With Fancy Drawings,” “Parking As Predicted,” “More Ranting About How The City Has Failed Renters,” “People Used To Live Here,” “It’s Not Quite Dead Yet,” “Learned Helplessness” and “Renters Lose Again”.

Well, that temporary zoning was passed on March 18, 2013. And as it’s now April of 2016, that means the three years are up as of last month.

And guess what! Instead of coming forward three years later with a keen development plan for that site, the owners of the 1755 Hamilton surface parking lot are — big honking surprise to absolutely no one at Prairie Dog — requesting a three year extension for their parking lot. You can see the development application that’s appeared on the city’s website by embiggening the graphic at the top of this post.

That temporary surface parking lot is kinda starting to look like a downtown fixture now, eh?

That runs contrary to council’s assurance back in 2013 that this would only be a temporary measure. In fact, here’s some audio of an interview with Mayor Fougere that took place right after that March 18, 2013 council meeting in which the 1755 Hamilton parking lot was approved.

As you can hear, the Mayor insists that the zoning for the parking lot is “only for three years at the most.” His words.*

Anyway, as this three-year extension is just now in the development application stage, nothing has been decided. Presently, city staff are looking at it and I doubt anyone at council has even seen it yet.

And that means it’s entirely possible that this application will get denied. But, it’s also entirely possible that the owners of the 1755 Hamilton surface parking lot will spin some sob story about the economic downturn and not being able to find anchor tenants and say they need more time to get the financing right. Or some shit. Under that scenario, I’d be surprised to see council tell them they have to close the lot to cars and pay property taxes on a vacant, useless lot.

But hey, council has been surprising me a lot lately. I’m eager to see where they go with this.


FOOTNOTE
* In that interview, Mayor Fougere also says that the 1755 Hamilton decision was a “unique circumstance” and that he “wouldn’t see this as a precedent.”  Which is fine and dandy to say, except that just last September, city administration cited the 1755 Hamilton decision in their recommendation to approve another temporary surface parking lot downtown — this one at 1840 Lorne Street. So that’s two buildings knocked down for parking since the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan was passed. To be fair, though, the parking lot at 1840 Lorne was given the go-ahead because the owners, Namerind Development, want to put low-income housing there and need extra time to get that project finalized. They even presented a plausible plan for that site and didn’t even bother paving their lot because they’re pretty confident about their timelines. Meanwhile, it’s been more then three years since the owners of 1755 Hamilton put 46 households out onto the street and we have still have yet to see any reality-based plans for the development of that lot.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

12 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Parking Lot”

  1. Collette, it’s frustrating , watching this council get ,re-elected again & again..

    Keep Shawn around…

  2. Your telepathy must have been turned on Paul as I was thinking recently about this very decision. I hadn’t gotten around to finding the details so thanks. I think City Council should implement a net zero parking lot policy. If a parking lot is created from a demolition, an equivalent area needs to be taken out of parking by building a building, hopefully to replace what was being demolished. So, demolish housing. You must create housing somewhere else on another parking lot.

  3. taxes on 1755 Hamilton (2016): $13,450.67
    revenue from 52 parking stalls ($150 – $200/mnth) = $93,600 – $124,800

    52 surface parking stalls likely return more profit to the ‘developers’ than the 46 apartments that they replaced. Until the City of Regina gets serious about taxing surface parking as a use, and not just as vacant land, there is no incentive for land owners to put properties into productive use. I wish my investments returned 600 – 900% for my efforts… (not including, of course, management, and initial ‘investment’ in the land).

  4. “Until the City of Regina gets serious about taxing surface parking as a use, and not just as vacant land, there is no incentive for land owners to put properties into productive use.”

    Yes!

  5. They do. Just not so much. (I’m not entirely clear on how they tax surface lots, to be honest.)

    I remember back when the Downtown Plan was between draft and final format, the city had to pull language that would have called for a tax increase on surface lots under pressure from the development community. When I tried to find out who objected I was stonewalled because of privacy concerns. And because the privacy laws in SK exclude 3rd party communications from Access To Info requests, I couldn’t even demand the names or get the specific concerns that were raised.

  6. Paul…I would like to second the motion of MB re you running for Council. I will help.

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