No eyes on the street with five storeys of park­ing

The Daily Courier - - OPINION -


Renowned ur­ban the­o­rist Jane Ja­cobs iden­ti­fied one of the three qual­i­ties that streets of a suc­cess­ful city re­quires as “eyes upon the street,” eyes be­long­ing to those we might call the nat­u­ral pro­pri­etors of the street.

“The build­ings on a street equipped to han­dle strangers and to in­sure the safety of both res­i­dents and strangers, must be ori­ented to the street. They can­not turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.”

In Kelowna, we know the blank streets and pock­ets that at­tract il­licit ac­tiv­ity.

By con­trast, there are many ar­eas only a block or two away where we feel per­fectly safe. Such is the stark dif­fer­ence be­tween Leon Av­enue and Bernard Av­enue. Their land use and streetscapes de­fine their per­ceived safety and ac­tiv­ity.

As down­town Kelowna is rapidly grow­ing up­ward, the con­nec­tion of build­ings to the street is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to defin­ing the streets and the fu­ture of the down­town it­self. While many may look up at the num­ber of storeys be­ing pre­sented on projects, it’s the qual­ity of the lower lev­els that is more crit­i­cal.

Kelowna’s high wa­ter ta­ble poses sig­nif­i­cant re­stric­tions to de­vel­op­ment — mainly the fea­si­bil­ity of un­der­ground park­ing struc­tures. Many de­vel­op­ments have suc­cess­fully hid­den park­ing with one level un­der­ground and up­per lev­els be­hind hous­ing and retail, pre­serv­ing the streetscape.

By con­trast, the three City of Kelowna parkades are large podi­ums ris­ing four storeys. All have se­cu­rity to con­trol il­licit ac­tiv­ity, and none hide their util­i­tar­ian pur­pose to house cars de­spite the pres­ence of lower level com­mer­cial space and colour­ful ac­cents.

With new tow­ers pro­posed in the down­town, we are in dan­ger of above-ground park­ing killing our down­town.

The soon-to-be-built con­do­minium at Ellis and Lawrence chal­lenges Ja­cobs’ the­ory with an im­pos­ing five-storey parkade podium as part of a 15-storey condo tower — 25 per cent park­ing, 75 per cent liv­ing.

De­spite the project be­ing touted as hav­ing the great­est walk score in Kelowna and be­ing lo­cated within a block of car share, a tran­sit hub and ded­i­cated cy­cling cor­ri­dors, the project has 22 per cent more park­ing than re­quired by C7 zon­ing. It begs the ques­tion: if you can’t build within the zon­ing park­ing re­quire­ments in such an ideal lo­ca­tion, then where?

The de­vel­oper also re­jected putting one storey of park­ing un­der­ground ne­ces­si­tat­ing the high podium. Ren­der­ings of the ini­tial sub­mis­sion show the qual­ity of the de­sign look­ing like a tower atop a parkade and only through it­er­a­tions with city plan­ning staff did the parkade be­gin to look more like a build­ing and pass­able for ap­proval.

Still, many of staff’s ex­cel­lent sugges­tions were not im­ple­mented. It was, there­fore, odd to wit­ness open praise to the de­vel­oper on the de­sign by cer­tain coun­cil mem­bers prior to their vote.

For Kelowna’s down­town, the im­pli­ca­tions on the street, af­ford­abil­ity, and fu­ture de­vel­op­ment in the area are sig­nif­i­cant:

— While the ground floor of the project in­cludes com­mer­cial space, there will be no eyes on the street af­ter hours. Ac­tual res­i­dents will be com­pletely dis­con­nected from the street set­back high in their tower. Had res­i­den­tial units been in­cluded in the podium this prob­lem could have been solved.

— Had the min­i­mum park­ing re­quire­ments been used and the park­ing been a storey un­der­ground, the podium could have been three or four storeys. The new high-qual­ity West­corp de­sign for its down­town ho­tel pro­posed half or 156 of its park­ing stalls un­der­ground.

Con­cerns of in­suf­fi­cient park­ing could have been mit­i­gated by in­clud­ing a car share in the build­ing or of­fer­ing res­i­dents a tran­sit pass pro­gram.

— The five-storey podium sets a prece­dent for podium height of fu­ture ad­ja­cent build­ings cre­at­ing a con­tin­u­ous wall in all di­rec­tions. In Van­cou­ver, fa­mous for its liv­abil­ity and podium ar­chi­tec­ture, five sto­ries is rare and care is taken to pre­serve streetscape and view cor­ri­dors. Five storeys of ex­posed park­ing for con­do­minium projects is non-ex­is­tent.

— A re­cent ar­ti­cle iden­ti­fied the slow death of ur­ban park­ing due to the high cost, space re­quire­ments, and the avail­abil­ity of more af­ford­able and con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion op­tions. Buy­ers to this op­ti­mal lo­ca­tion have those op­tions, yet will pay their share of the typ­i­cal stall con­struc­tion cost of $65,000 ñ a missed op­por­tu­nity for pro­vid­ing hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity or al­lo­cat­ing that money to en­hance the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of the build­ing.

Kelowna is look­ing to grow up from its past plan­ning blights to in­fill­ing into the best mid­sized City in North Amer­ica. With this am­bi­tion, at­ten­tion to the qual­ity of its ur­ban fab­ric is crit­i­cal.

A high wa­ter ta­ble and an ap­petite for park­ing ne­ces­si­tates Kelowna to be proac­tive in­stead of let­ting parkades drive the streetscape and safety. Robert Stupka, Kelowna

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