This Week At City Hall: Nightclubs, Vacant Lots and Parking

This Week at City HallI have been waiting AGES for an excuse to write about all those vacant lots around town that are former gas stations and thanks to last night’s council meeting I finally have one.

soontobenightclubWhat happened was a report came forward from city administration about a nightclub proposed for 2151 Albert Street (pic at right). That’s a two-storey building next to the Chamber of Commerce that used to house offices of some sort. And the idea of putting a nightclub there raised some hackles among local businesses because the new nightclub doesn’t fulfill the minimum parking standards as laid out in Bylaw 9250.

And by “local businesses” I mean Adam Sperling, the owner of La Bodega and Slow Pub which are restaurants across the street from the proposed nightclub. He came out to address council, saying that he wasn’t opposed to the nightclub as such, just to the fact that city administration is recommending it be allowed despite it lacking sufficient parking.

Which it lacked, there only being three parking spots on the lot while the bylaw calls for a minimum of 12.

Well, John Hopkins, CEO of the Regina Chamber of Commerce, came to the rescue by sending in a letter to council letting them know that his organization has reached an agreement with their neighbour and will be allowing them to use the CoC’s seven parking spots after regular business hours. Combine that with the nightclub’s three spots and they’re up to 10 out of the 12 required. Add on to that the fact that there’s a big o’l Impark lot 75 metres away — and the fact that people really shouldn’t be driving to a nightclub anyway since they’ll probably be drinking — and the nightclub owners were basically there. More or less. Well… I guess technically just “less”. But council figured they were close enough that flexibility was warranted and they voted to approve the nightclub application.

At this point I should note that the headline writers at Newstalk 980 are telling me that this is what constitutes a “parking war.”¹ And I walked by there last night and can attest to the fact that the parking carnage at the corner of 14th and Albert is on a scale we’ve not seen in modern times. I’m not sure what that means exactly but hey, if war is hell then parking war is parking hell and I’m sure glad I don’t own a car.

Speaking of which, I want to remind readers that I begrudge every single second I spend writing about parking issues. Due to my lack of a car, having sufficient space about town to store them is low on my list of things I fret about.

And I can’t say I’m enthused to be writing about a nightclub either because I don’t frequent them so often. Actually I never do and if you ever see me at a nightclub you’ll know it’s only because I’m drunk… and 24. Which would suggest I’ve somehow invented a de-aging ray — while drinking — meaning some nightclub proposal and its inadequacy in the eyes of Bylaw 9250 will be the least of your worries.

So I wouldn’t even be writing about this nightclub application at all — especially since the city’s annual report for 2012, a far more interesting document than this nightclub application, was also on last night’s council agenda — except that Adam Sperling raised some very intriguing questions about the vacant lot just to the south of the proposed nightclub (pic below).

Vacant lotWhy can’t that be turned into a surface parking lot? Mr Sperling wondered.

Why indeed?

Well, as everyone in the neighbourhood of that vacant lot at 14th and Albert knows, it used to be a gas station and is contaminated with petrochemicals. And as the lot is owned by Imperial Oil and they’re worried about any liability issues they’d face were the lot to be developed, they’ve been hanging on to it and letting it rot for a very long time.

How long?

Well, Councillor O’Donnell — who, while a spry and lively councillor, is no nightclub-hopping youngster like, say, councillors Bryce and Murray — stated that it’s been a derelict piece of property for almost all of his life.

I’m going to save myself the embarrassment and not speculate on how long exactly that could be and instead I’ll just say: some tens of years.

This touched off a lively discussion driven mainly by Councillor Flegel who grilled city admin over what tools the city might have to force the development of that property. As it turns out, according to city staff, we have none. As long as Imperial Oil pays its taxes and maintains the lot, the city can’t compel them to do anything with it.

And that fukken sucks — my words, not council’s, nor admin’s, but I think I’ve paraphrased their sentiment on the issue accurately.

During the meeting, Mayor Michael Fougere noted that the question of what to do with abandoned lots is an issue right across the city — there are at least 15 of them laying fallow in Regina right now — and it’s a problem for other Saskatchewan cities as well. As such it’s being discussed by the members of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. But he concluded his remarks on the derelict lot problem with an argument that’s kind of becoming his catch phrase: this is a provincial issue, not a city issue.

Fougere expanded on this after the meeting:

“These are much larger issues that are beyond the legal capacity of the City of Regina or any municipality to direct what would happen,” said Fougere. “We would want to see these orphan sites that have environmental issues from former gas stations be cleaned up and developed. Do we have the tools to do it? No, we don’t. But we do talk to the province and to the federal government about ways to make that happen.”

But what about those property taxes that oil companies are paying on the lots they’ve abandoned? Can’t the city raise them to the point where holding the land would become impractical?

“For the moment we don’t have a bylaw to do that,” said Fougere.

Okay. But is it even within council’s power to make a bylaw to raise property taxes on those lots?

“Before I say absolutely ‘Yes,’ I want to talk to administration about that,” he said. “But I think there are some impediments to do that directly, there’s some process to go through before we simply add taxes to it.”

Councillor O’Donnell, meanwhile, did suggest that there might be some cause for hope on the horizon where these contaminated sites are concerned. The federal government has provided money to deal with these so-called “brown field” sites through the Green Municipal Fund which is administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

O’Donnell said that while he wasn’t exactly certain how much money has been provided for this, he reckoned it’s on the order of $350 million.

“So, while sizeable, not enough to get rid of every [former] service station,” he said.

A working group has been put together to figure out how best to get this money distributed and O’Donnell, as Regina’s representative to FCM, has been asked to be a part of that group. He will be involved in a conference call on Friday, May 24 on the brown field issue and it will be a topic of discussion at the FCM conference in Vancouver next week.

O’Donnell noted that as there won’t be enough money to remediate every contaminated site in the country, the fund will only be able to help get the ball rolling.

“We can now go to a landowner and say, ‘We’re going to make it worth your while. So if you remediate, we’ll help you so you can sell the land at fair market value,'” explained O’Donnell. “The idea is to create an incentive.”

Which is great, I suppose. And probably the best way to go forward if we want to see these contaminated, abandoned gas station lots  cleaned up and used for something other than housing for urban bunnies (not that there’s anything wrong with that but come on, rabbits don’t pay a cent in property tax why should they get these prime lots at no cost, goddamn mooching lagomorphs).

Personally, I’d much prefer to see these oil companies punished severely with hefty fines and massive property tax bills for contaminating these lots in the first place and for then leaving them to rot for a generation. They’re a blight on the urban landscape and it’s ridiculous that governments across Canada haven’t moved with an Old Testament fury to solve this problem sooner.

But hey, I’m not in charge and can’t smite any oil companies. I’m just some schmuck who knows that rabbits are lagomorphs.

—————————————————–

FOOTNOTE
¹ That article by Pat Book is excellent and worth reading — it contains much more useful news than I’m putting in this increasingly stupid blog post — I’m only making fun of its exaggerated title.

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.

39 thoughts on “This Week At City Hall: Nightclubs, Vacant Lots and Parking”

  1. If you leave a service station lot vacant, does the contamination dissipate overtime. If so how long

  2. Oh, maybe if we got a gas station put in at the new stadium site, they’d have to delay the project a few decades for the land to decontaminate itself?

    Don’t mind me, just being ornery today.

  3. Pat: Yeah. Maybe. Don’t know. But clearly the oil companies that own these lots are unconvinced the contamination has dissipated sufficiently after many decades of just sitting there collecting dandelion fluff and Tim Hortons waste.

  4. Not that I’m into solving problems for the City or anything, but if a cleanup bylaw were applied to petrochemical sites, stating that after ten years of being vacant, they must be redeveloped or sold, or face increased property taxes, that might solve this vacant lot issue there, and at Lakeshore Sobeys also.

    I advised City Council in April that they ought to remove parking requirements from new building construction also (because transit should improve sufficiently to serve as replacement for private cars).

  5. I agree that companies that contaminate land should be required to clean up, it’s absurd that Imperial Oil has no obligations to do this.

    This situation makes me wonder how the condo building at Montague and Elphinstone went up so quickly after the gas station (Husky?) that occupied that site for decades closed down. It’s a prime spot near a park which I’m sure was an incentive to get the site cleaned up, but 14th and Albert is also pretty prime real estate, as is Hillsdale and 23rd Avenue.

    I lived in Toronto in the mid to late 90s, and back then, the land east of Cherry Street and north of Lakeshore was often described as too contaminated for development, but that area is full of new condos now.

  6. Bronymous: You’re right. But they called it a nightclub all through the council meeting so I stuck with that.

    Cowardly Lion: O’Donnell mentioned that he’s seen gas station sites being cleaned up now right after they’ve been decommissioned. So things seem to have improved somewhat. It’s these sites that were shut down decades ago before anyone gave a shit that are the problem. (Not that oil companies really give a shit… but you know what I’m saying.)

    John: Yeah. Upping the property taxes after giving the company a chance to clean up and sell on their own sounds like a good idea. Not as punitive as I’d like but apparently you have to “work with” these companies and “provide carrots, not sticks” if you want to get anything done. (I’d prefer it if we “worked in spite of” these companies and provided “napalm instead of carrots” but what you gonna do?)

    I wonder though if there are rules in the Cities Act that limit a municipality’s ability to jack up taxes on empty commercial lots?

  7. By the way, about that nightclub/lounge: Sperling also claimed during his presentation last night that there had been building work done on the nightclub despite the owners not having the proper approvals.

    Actually, here’s what he wrote verbatim: “Mark Andrews [a city planner] stated that he could not recommend approval since the plan failed to comply with bylaw even though he was aware of ongoing construction taking place. However showing further disrespect for the permitting and bylaw process all interior renovations have been completed. We would like to understand how the planning commission gave them the authority to complete renovations before having any permits in place.”

    And city admin confirmed that they’d “heard” that there had been minor cosmetic work done on the site without a building permit and they were planning to check it out.

    Well, I went by there last night and peered through the window and as far as I can tell there’s been no work done. On the lounge floor anyway.

    It certainly couldn’t be said that “all interior renovations have been completed” because just by glancing through the window I could see piles of garbage, rows of old drafting tables, smashed drywall and broken ductwork hanging out of the ceiling. There are no booths, tables or lighting and certainly no place for a DJ. What seems to be going on is shit is being piled up and hauled out. And I don’t think you need a permit for shit hauling (though I could be wrong).

    Well, it’s either that or the nightclub owners are going for an industrial waste heap motif. Which would be awfully daring. And might score them an extra half-prairie dog in their review if they carry it off with style.

  8. Or they’re going for a club worthy of promotion from SNL’s “Stefon.”

    Seems like this Sperling fellow is not too pleased with the situation (parking issues, competition?) and is leaning on by the book bylaws that the new owners have actually adhered to and plain making stuff up that is easily disproved. Not the best approach.

  9. Paul used to have a car, back when his family was set to increase. I’ve been waiting patiently for the saga of “had car, had endless trouble with car, got rid of car”.

    Until construction starts to involve actual demolition, there should be no need for a permit. Maybe Mr. Sperling and the city admin. should do better than depending on rumour and hearsay. Both would have a lot more credibility.

  10. Actually, the car was in my wife’s name. So I’ve still technically never owned a car in my life.

    And yes, it was a miserable, costly thing. Handy to have while we were driving regularly out to Quance to see my wife’s Ob-Gyn. And when we had to go back and forth to the hospital around when Dash was born. But we spent more on repairs than we did on the car and I shudder to think how much the gas set us back.

    We got rid of it as soon as we could. Donated it to a charity in fact.

    The car share is much more our speed.

  11. The city can’t drop some eminent domain claims and tell the oil companies to go take a blistering bleeding *radio edit*?

  12. “Brononymous” – I’m not sure why you are taking the approach you are with your comment above, but in fact, the bylaws that these new owners ARE being asked to “be relaxed” by quite a large amount, in fact. As far as renovations go, I am not sure what the deal is there, no one’s shown us the top floor yet. HOWEVER, the owners of said building are bitching that the Metro told lies about this story, which – when I read the story – is completely false, and more about the fact that they are pissed that the Metro dared to report a story without getting “their version” of the story.

    Here’s how I have managed to make sense of everything to date:

    1) The new owners – Derek Wu, Colter Wood, Jim Demeray, and Trevor Anderson, are upset because the Metro reported that there are four owners and not three. To me, this is silly, childish and something they shouldn’t even be bitching about. I’ve got photo evidence that proves that there are four owners – not that I really give a shit, nor should anyone, other than to prove these owners wrong in their accusations of being unfairly “attacked” by the Metro.

    2) These new owners are upset that Mr. Sperling seems to be more concerned about competition, than the ACTUAL ISSUE at hand, which is parking – or lack thereof. At first, I didn’t fully understand this problem, but after reading more today, it makes perfect sense.

    2a) The new business REQUIRES minimum 12 parking stalls for customers. Of which they have “three” on-site (behind the bldg – more intended for staff than customers – but whatever, semantics). They also allegedly have an “agreement” with the Chamber of Commerce (which nobody has bothered to show the public other than the verbal BS that comes out of Mr. Hopkins mouth – be careful what you hear from that guy is all I’m saying), that the Chamber is “allowing” them allegedly “exclusive access” to their six (or three depending on news reports today) spots in the back of THEIR building. So, you either have 6 or 9 “on site” parking. Leaving 3 or 6 to be addressed – which is where this bylaw comes in and talks about “caveated parking”, and how it has to be within a certain distance (30M).

    The parking that these owners have approached Impark about is actually 75M away, more than double the proper distance. They are asking this to be “relaxed”, and say it’s “standard operating procedure” and that the Slow Pub owners also had the same treatment. I haven’t had a chance to talk with Mr. Sperling yet, but if this is the case, then it opens the question as to why has this bylaw not been reviewed since that time. Of note, however, is that Slow Pub also has an actual parking lot in front of it, where it is pretty obvious that it is customer parking, not employee parking, where this new night club does not.

    2b) The issue I see that Mr. Sperling has, and understandably so, is that he is concerned that the patrons of this new night club will park in his lot and walk across the street. Not only taking spaces away for his actual clientelle, but potentially taking customers away from his business. Yes, that’s competition, but it’s about far more than that. He should not have to be forced to tow cars from the lot – and the City DOES play a role in this, by ensuring that they adhere to the bylaws that are set out for this very purpose.

    3) This exploded on Twitter over the last 48 hours. Why? Because of the actual bylaw issues that these guys are blatantly getting at least preferred treatment? A situation where this application should NOT be approved at least until all those issues are cleared up first – none of this “Subject to” bullshit? NOPE. It’s because they are pissed off. And, well, they have connections in this City. Well known connections. And, well, when you dare to challenge these people – in their “clique” – you are automatically an asshole, and you are the devil. Whether it be the Metro for reporting “not all views”, or Slow Pub for complaining that they are not abiding by the written Bylaws. In this clique? Some pretty heavy hitters. I won’t get into name-dropping in here, just suffice it to say – I’m not surprised one bit by ANY of the individuals involved in their “clique”.

    There might be those that say I am biased because of who is in their “clique” – and no I am not. I don’t care WHO you are, or who your family are, or what connections you think you have in this City. I don’t care how much weight you think you hold in this City (because of the tax dollars you represent – Mr. John Hopkins, CEO of Chamber quote), you do NOT get special treatment by those in this City just because you think you should. I am disgusted at these people’s behaviour, and embarassed they are living in our City, let alone representing it on a National and International scale.

    In the end – the lesson I learned from DARING to ask legitimate questions of these new owners, the only reasonable one who actually kept his cool with the many questions thrown out was Derek Wu, I must congratulate him on that, DO NOT CHALLENGE THESE FOLKS if you want your business/media outlet to not be swarmed with hate mail/negative “word of mouth” through Social Media, etc/attacks/boycotting etc. by those “powers that be” in this City. Sadly, Prairie Dog experienced this with the last Mayor, and I think it’s gotten better (??) with Mayor Fougere. Sadly even more is that there are other media outlets in this City that are more speaking podiums for the City and these “powers that be” than anything else. I COMMEND the Metro AND Prairie Dog for not being afraid to tell it like it is. It may not flatter everyone, but news is not meant to be flattering. It’s meant to tell a story. It’s meant to tell the truth. Regardless of empty threats by the City and/or their “elitist clique” that they will (OMG) pull their advertising dollars from you if you DARE print anything that offends them. Big fucking babies they are.

    The one name I will drop here is Chelsea Manz of RealRadio.ca – I won’t say much on here, but just go check out her Twitter account if you get a chance. It’s pure comedy gold, and she’s hurting herself and her business more than anything by her explosive Tweets over the last 24 hours. All because she didn’t like that her buddy was being challenged with actual questions.

  13. It’s Bronymous, not Brononymous. Recognize.

    Holy exaggerated conspiracy theory. They need 12 lots, they have 9 or 10 or so, and they want a little leniency to give this city something different, a lounge/nightclub in this section of the city. Good thing they have their Illuminati connections within the city.

    Wowsers, there are endless complaints about growing the downtown, getting attractions, make it the place to be, stop urban sprawl – and then something actually is getting done and that gets complained about too due to a few minor technicalities no one should be getting worked up over. Yes, minor. Chill. But hey, anytime you can vent against the reptilian overlords of the Regina Mafia, go for it.

    And my main point was the approach of the owner of La Bodega and Slow comes off as middling, untruthful and afraid of competition. Not very attractive for his current businesses. If he’s so concerned about parking he can close shop and move to the burbs, plenty of parking there. Oh wait, he likes the area? Well why can’t someone else move in too in the general vicinity? Because of a few parking spots? He should focus on having the old gas station spot opened up for parking, if anything. The Fainting Goat is roughly in the same area, don’t remember this issue but they had/have next to no parking either. The idea is people park nearby and walk, my God, walk, or get public transportation. And maybe the bylaws need flexibility or to be updated, nothing is set in stone, rules are meant to change with the times.

  14. PS I have no connection to this, just an observer. In case i’m accused of also being part of the Regina business Mafia.

  15. Good piece Paul.

    My story on brownfield lots is up now on our web site: http://www.cjme.com/story/former-gas-station-lots-staying-vacant-regina/111404

    One interesting aspect mentioned to me by the city assessor is the liability issues tied to contaminated land. It’s apparently safer to leave it sit fallow and pay the property tax year after year than take the risk of developing. He also said that the increase in land value in the city the last five years means it’s likely that any company that’s going to sell off or develop the land probably would’ve by now.

    But I’m following more angles so keep an eye on http://www.CJME.com!

  16. Middling is wrong word, scratch that. Understand concerns about parking issues within the area becoming more severe within that area, but don’t blame new development, look at other options (parking lot) that will have a substantial impact.

  17. My family owned the gas station on hillsdale and 23rd.
    The land it was on is owned by the Hill family, last I heard they wanted to build a condo there. But with the recent construction of the tower downtown, a great deal of their capital was tied up and it just hasn’t gone through. If I recall they are also waiting on the lease for the grocery store and mini mall to expire as well.

  18. Oh great. So does that mean the Hills are going to try to close down the only grocery store in that part of town, the medical services, and build a low-rise condo instead of a high rise like Robert’s Plaza across the street, which would need a grocery store and services there anyway?

    Pardon my cynical design speculation.

  19. “Bronymous” FYI:

    “And my main point was the approach of the owner of La Bodega and Slow comes off as middling, untruthful and afraid of competition. Not very attractive for his current businesses.” – This is completely and utterly ridiculous and actually almost libel/slander against the owner of La Bodega and Slow Pub. Nothing he stated is untruthful, from what I have seen to date, and I admit, I have only followed this for the past few days, but even City Hall administration admit there are issues here.

    “Afraid of competition” – I can see where you might THINK this, but in reality, it’s more about “afraid of unfair practices stealing his customers and his designated parking”. And, rightfully so! If these new owners are so pissed off about the parking bylaws, why aren’t THEY locating in the Suburbs?? Why move into a frikken building stuck between two very non-nightclubesque businesses?

  20. Thank you Patrick Book for doing your part in getting to the bottom of the Brownfield lots, this has been a sticking point for me personally for many, many years, both here and in Moose Jaw, and have been wanting to bring it up to council for some time now.

    Unfortunately, you can’t just show up at Council and talk about any random subject like that. You have to wait until it’s on the Agenda. And, how does it get on the Agenda? Well, you have to bring the issue up to your Councillor. And, if he/she sees it as a big enough issue, they have the option to talk to City Administration about talking about it further at City Council. And, then, if you’re lucky enough to follow the bouncing ball and catch the meeting agenda when you THINK it is scheduled to be spoken on (a bit of magical time travel must be used here), then you can finally talk on the subject. What if your Councillor thinks the idea is stupid or doesn’t warrant enough concern to bring it up? Well, they tell you where to go and take the idea for themselves and make it sound like this was all their idea all along.

    Oh – and who is my councillor? Mr. Mike O’Donnell. Just saying. (Not bitter at all – at least the frikken issue is finally being discussed – I just hope they actually plan to do something proactively, and not just use it for the CPR development or solely to pave over these lots)

  21. Oh Chad, giving a quick opinion on someone’s public actions is not slander, give it a rest. Man, you really take things too far and then keep going and going. Never seen that before. Next you’ll promise the release of secret evidence around this issue, but then never provide it, because, you know, actual existence and such.

    Saying a business has done renovations beyond what is appropriate, when apparently they actually haven’t done these renovations, seems pretty untruthful to me. Going after a business right across the street that is similar to your businesses for pretty minor things seems a bit afraid of competition – do you think if a hair salon that required 10 spots was opening they’d face the same wrath?

    “If these new owners are so pissed off about the parking bylaws, why aren’t THEY locating in the Suburbs??” Because they want to be downtown, and are following the correct steps to set up shop there. Just like Slow and La Bodega, and countless other restaurants/pubs/lounges/nightclubs. They also don’t come off as pissed off, watch out, you’re venturing into slander territory.

  22. Again, good on ya, Bronymous. As to alleging slander/libel, that’s rich, considering the source.

  23. Thanks. Not to beat a dead horse (who thought that expression up?), but I just took a quick peek at twitter, Chad’s blog, and the actual news items. Wowee wowee. To sum up from my stance, Sperling has some legitimate concerns about parking. The way he went about it perhaps wasn’ t the best as I still feel he comes across as afraid of competition, and he lobbies accusations without proof. But he raises some good points about limited parking in the area, how he has to protect his spots, and the contaminated gas site that should be converted – focus your energies on this area man, that has real potential to make change, not a competing business having 9 spots instead of 12.

    Wu and his partners seem to have their stuff together, and it appears they have followed all of the bylaws. For proof, can’t really ask for more than them saying come and see it for yourself (which they’ve said consistently) before making accusations of them renovating without permission. They also are asking for a little leniency with the parking bylaws, which was afforded to them so the area can continue its revitalization. To argue that was an example of favoritism and corruption is stretching those definitions beyond legitimacy. Metro seems to have done a piss-poor job of getting both sides’ points of view, and looks like a forum for Sperling to vent and trash the new business. Apparently they have apologized and will follow-up.

    And Chad enters the fray, lobbying accusations of cliques and special deals, associations etc. with no evidence. Pure infuriation from all dealing with him. He is straight going after people’s reputations and businesses, libel and slander if you will. See twitter and his blog for examples of this, but man oh man, I could go on but don’t want to get dragged into this as I’ve seen what others went through. Chad, there are a lot of great causes to fight for, across the world and at home, but this isn’t one of them.

  24. Not to nitpick, but “lobbing” would be a better choice of words. Otherwise, a good summing up of the situation.

  25. On the subject of asking for special treatment… My understanding is the nightclub owners are now going to be going through the appeals process to get the requirements loosened on the last couple spots they need. The rules say any extra spots have to be within 30m of the building. They want to be able to say that spots 75m away in the Impark lot can count.

    There’s no favouritism there. Going through the appeals process is standard operating procedure for businesses. It’s part of the rigamarole of city hall. Nothing sketchy or underhanded about it. There are meetings of the two appeals board twice a month or more. They are to my knowledge open to the public.

    As for that 30m requirement… it’s stupid and needs to get fixed. 75m is an effortless walk for most people. Or it should be anyway.

    And as for that vacant lot… It would criminal if it got turned into a parking lot. Maybe the neighbourhood could use a little more parking but what it needs more of are businesses and apartments.

    Part of the reason a place like the Fainting Goat (which is now Leopold’s Tavern) will have such a hard time staying in business is because there is this huge wasteland between them and the more lively business strip that includes La Bodega, Sake, Bombay and Viet Thai. Those empty lots need to be filled in with stuff and then that whole stretch of Albert will be more inviting to passersby. Right now it just looks kind of shabby and those vacant lots (that Impark lot included) are a big part of the problem.

    You know that Impark lot used to be a bowling alley, eh? How much better would my life be if there was a bowling alley on that corner?

  26. How about one of the lots is converted for parking, and the other for business/apartments? Everyone wins!

  27. Lobs and lobbing are better. As is meddling over middling. Any chance we can get an edit function that notes when changes occurred?

  28. I’m sure we’re going to get a parking lot at some point on at least one of those lots. I’m wholly opposed to that but realistic enough to know that parking rules everything.

    An alternative would be to encourage some of the development options laid out in the downtown plan that incorporate parking behind and under new builds. Be nice to see those guidelines spread across the city.

    The Deveraux condos on Angus and 15th, by the way, have ground floor parking and 3 stories of condos above. So there’s pretty much as much parking there as you’d get from a surface lot but there’s housing built on top of it.

    Thing is, surface lots are a waste of space (for anything but cars and cars aren’t people) and they ruin the streetscape.

    I could go on for pages about how surface lots are completely irredeemable. They’re city killers and should be prohibited across the board, whether downtown or in the suburbs. Failing that, they should be taxed to the point where no developer will consider building them.

  29. The roof of that bowling alley collapsed or partly did so, several years ago. There wasn’t enough business volume to justify repairs, as it seems bowling is not the red-hot sport it used to be, so the place was demolished. Sad, but it’s not the only alley to go down here.

  30. Yeah, I’d heard that about the roof. Doesn’t make a surface parking lot an acceptable fate for that lot.

    About bowling… i’m actually not a fan of the game. But I’ve been to bowling alleys I’ve enjoyed hanging out at. There was a basement one in downtown Vancouver that was fantastic. It’d maintained all its fixtures from the 50s and 60s and kept them in immaculate shape. A real retro trip to be in there. Worth going to for a burger and can of Pilsner if nothing else.

    And there was a bowling alley in Edmonton that shut down and all its fixtures were repurposed in a cajun restaurant.

    I have a similar affection for curling rinks. I’ve never played the game. But there was this rink in Ottawa close to where we lived that dated back to like the 40s and it was awesome to just go hang out in the lounge.

  31. The last time I bowled was at that very alley, now an Impark, at a team windup. Before that, I bowled quite a bit in high school, ten-pin, ‘way back in the 20th century, in another province. It was fun. I had a couple of step-cousins who were 5-pin champs and bowled all over North America.
    Curling is also great fun, and you’re right about rink ambiance. I haven’t curled since long before the corn broom went out.

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