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.
* 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.