City forges ahead on parkade demo plans

Front Street west of Sixth Street without parkade, overpass and ramp.  - City of New Westminster report
Front Street west of Sixth Street without parkade, overpass and ramp.
— image credit: City of New Westminster report

All is quiet on the western half of the Front Street parkade. For now.

That section is scheduled to be demolished in 2015.

That has been decided.

What hasn’t is what it’s going to look like afterward, how much it’s going to cost and how disruptive the work will be.

Senior planner Mark Allison told council this week the city is asking for several scenarios from bidders for the planning of the project.

New West wants to keep its options open on the design, costs and disruption to residents, businesses and traffic.

Part of the project is to leave behind a Front Street Mews with wider sidewalks and parking stalls to attract retail customers, said Allison.

Making it pretty was a priority for councillors when they spoke following Allison’s presentation.

Coun. Betty McIntosh suggested murals on the ramps and greenery.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy wants the top deck of the section of the parkade that’s left behind to take advantage of the view, much like The High Line in New York.

“It is one of the best viewpoints to see the river in the city. Bar none,” said McEvoy.

Coun. Jonathan Coté has been calling for the parkade’s demolition for years.

The Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area balked at the idea until it received assurances there would be enough parking spaces created to meet the demand.

He said New Westminster and Vancouver were in a turtle race to see which demolition would happen first—taking down the Georgia Viaduct in Vancouver or the parkade.

Coun. Bill Harper said in an interview once the project is done it will revitalize Front Street and make it more financially viable for businesses.

That’s the good news for them. But the bad news, he admitted, is those businesses will have to endure the deconstruction.

“We have to get through this piece,” said Harper.

Allison said the city will work through the summer on the cost exercise before moving on to a detailed design.

It’s hoped council will be able to make a decision early in 2015.

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