Earlier this week, a frustrated contractor described a fiasco of sorts to me in trying to park across from City Hall. Apparently the parking on Carden Street was such that a number of vehicles were circling the block, one being an OPP cruiser and another, a by-law car (if I have it right). As it was described to me, Carden Street was congested with activity as much as with vehicles, with people parking and unloading for the splash pad, taking advantage of the free two-hour parking on a hot day.
From what was being described to me, Carden Street at that particular moment was, as function goes, broken.
There is now some question (renewed questioning, for some) about the judgment in putting the recreational feature at City Hall. It may suggest more of the same is coming in terms of access and parking pressure on Carden Street, and as far as broken roads go, it’s a case of “same problem, different year” for the merchants there.
I suggest that from a planning perspective it’s not a good sign if early on a lot of people are already looking to the day when it’s less popular, given the issues it has caused.
In the end, City Hall is a place of business. What typically happens inside a City Hall is unique. It’s more than a public building with a rec feature, as important as they are. It’s where the future direction of the city and our community is deliberated. As much as it should represent the best of who we are, and the best we want to be to me it also should have a seriousness to it.
To me, it’s misplaced.
It’s misplaced, and it seems as though elements of it were not planned as well as they could have been. The costs associated with operating and maintaining it over time merited a second look and the sober second thought that seems to be missing from the voting majority on Council — especially when it comes to capital projects. Not to mention the money that will be involved in dealing with improving parking now.
Nor the mistrust in the motives for it being built. It seems it’s part of a larger theme of using tax dollars for political legacies.
We’ve got to have realistic expectations of what we can jam into a downtown like ours and what something like that rec feature would mean for parking and what-not, expecially if the working assumption is it will be… successful?
So… over the short term — having created this additional pressure on parking around City Hall and the Courthouse — now what? Do away with the free two-hour parking on Carden. Keep it as free half-hour parking. Perhaps something can be tweaked with the Wilson Street lot.
But we’ve made an investment and accepted money from the community and now we’re on the hook to make it all work. Time will tell but it seems to be pointing to the outcome: a rec feature in front of City Hall = $$$ required for a Wilson Street parkade.
Which is of course to say, we can always fix the situation… with more money.
Will I use the rink or splash pad with my family? Maybe, the rink more so. It’s there. But there was likely a better place for it. And odds are, it’ll eventually get there.