UVic’s latest parkade plan embraces community concerns

Open houses Saturday and Tuesday will give Saanich residents an opportunity to gauge five new parking garage options

The University of Victoria hopes the third time will be the charm when it comes to garnering public support to build hundreds more parking stalls on campus.

An open house held Thursday night gave UVic’s neighbours and interested Saanich residents an opportunity to gauge five new parking garage options.

From height reductions and burying a couple levels underground, to relocating the parkade elsewhere on campus, the university’s associate vice-president of campus planning says she’s confident they’ve listened to public concerns.

“There are lots of considerations when you consider a parkade. We want to look at the financial implications. And are we providing enough parking for people that’s convenient and accessible, and doesn’t overflow into the community?” said Kristi Simpson.

UVic’s parkade first came before Saanich council last August, but it was sent back to the drawing board after councillors said it was “too big” and “in the wrong place.”

Little had changed when the school returned to council chambers in the fall – save for a variety of ways to camouflage the same building. Councillors sent UVic away, again.

The university hopes a more thorough process of vetting the project through neighbours will convince council to OK the latest proposal sometime this summer.

The five options seem to achieve a balance of what many neighbours and councillors were asking for since Day 1.

Concerns about height should be minimized. All five options reduce the height of the structure to no higher than 14 metres – 5.5 metres lower than the original proposal.

And concerns about the location should be minimized, too. Three of the five options on the table include building one or two parkades elsewhere on campus, in lieu of one large parking garage right on McKenzie Avenue.

As for public consultation, the university has hired a consulting firm to assist in the process to better collect public feedback.

But Don Gunn, acting president of the Gordon Head Residents’ Association, says the consensus among his association members was that the original proposal was better than any of these new options.

“We felt that (original) one was logical, the building was safe, it was convenient, it would serve a purpose in a logical spot. It probably wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as we would’ve liked, but it was okay,” he said.

Gunn says of the new options, they most favour keeping the parkade in its original location, but putting two levels underground. “That said, that does present some problems, in terms of safety. We now that many many people are not terribly keen about going in to parkades that are closed in. The beauty of the first one was that it was all open, it was safe and secure parking – and that’s a biggie.”

He says his residents’ association isn’t throwing its support behind some of the other options because they limit future plans to create a more comprehensive “town centre” across Gabriola Road, toward the campus bookstore and transit loop.

“Many of us in Gordon Head, we see the university in a somewhat different light than some of our neighbours do,” Gunn said. “Gordon Head has developed its character, in many ways, as a result of the university. … And we’re suffering from many of the issues that accrue from having a university around us – traffic, parking, conversion of houses to student housing – but those are things we’re prepared to live with and work through.”

Two other open houses to view the parkade opens are scheduled for Saturday, March 10 (St. Aidan’s United Church, 3703 St. Aidan’s St., noon to 3 p.m.) and Tuesday, March 14 (Queenswood, 2492 Arbutus Rd., 4 to 8 p.m.).

The university will consider all the feedback, then return to the community with a detailed design proposal in May. Once a second round of consultation is held, the project will go back before council.

The cost of the project may jump, depending on which option (or combination of options) is selected.

The original parkade came with a $20.1 million pricetag. The five options vary in price, ranging from $17.6 million to $38.5 million.

The parkade first came about as a joint application for a new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities sports facility, with an attached parking garage.

The community has been fully supportive of the athletics facility, Simpson said, so only the plans for parking have changed.

To provide feedback online, visit uvic.ca/carsa.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

The five options (compared to original parkade proposal)

Option A – Reduce height by two storeys. Reduce number of parking stalls by 156. Cost: $17.6 million

Option B – Reduce height by two storeys, bury two storeys underground. Reduce number of parking stalls by 13. Cost: $22.6 million

Option C – Reduce height by two storeys, relocate parkade to across Gabriola Road. Increase number of parking stalls by 140. Cost: $24.7 million

Option D – Build two parkades (both reduced by two storeys) – one in original location, one to across Gabriola Road. Increase number of parking stalls by 244. Cost: $38.5 million

Option E – Build two parkades (both reduced by two storeys) – one in original location, one at McGill Road near Centennial Stadium. Increase number of parking stalls by 244. Cost: $38.5 million