Archives for posts with tag: carparks

Image of one of the new car-parking megastructures planned for Christchurch’s CBD (image source: CRUDE)

In a move that has been welcomed by the frequently ignored property developer class, the Finance Minister is expected to outline plans for a new focus on housing for cars in the Christchurch CBD as he delivers his 7th budget tomorrow. The plan will finally address the dire need for more carparks in the central city, a housing crisis which the government has repeatedly denied was an issue.

While the details have yet to be announced, Rebuilding Christchurch understands that the initiative, known as the Central Road Users and Developers Entity (CRUDE), will be focused on the East Frame. Stage One will see all remaining buildings in the government-owned East Frame demolished and replaced with car parking. Stage Two will involve a state-of-the-art, 4,500-berth facility built for the protection and security of cars. Stage Three of CRUDE will involve the repurposing of “people parks”, such as Latimer Square and the Margaret Mahy Playground, into parks for cars.

After years of being ignored, central city property developers are delighted with CRUDE. “We’re finally being listened to”, says developer Tony Trough. “We’ve been telling the government for years: you can’t have a successful city without cars. Just look at some of the great cities of the world: Los Angeles, Swindon, Los Angeles, Birmingham. They all have spectacular spaghetti junctions. With CRUDE, Christchurch finally has a chance to compete on the world stage.” Trough went on to say that the rights of cars have been ignored in the rebuild. “On any given day, there will be more cars in the CBD than people. Yet what are we doing for those cars? Nothing. They have no voice. Unless you have a late-model European car like I do, which tells you to put your seatbelt on. But apart from that, they’re silent.”

People living in the quake-damaged Eastern suburbs of the city who spoke with Rebuilding Christchurch on the condition of anonymity were supportive of the idea. Shoshanna, not her real name, lives with her 3 daughters, 2 sons, husband, de-facto partner, de facto partner’s ex, de facto partner’s ex’s nephew, de facto partner’s ex’s nephew’s wife and twin daughters, a wolfhound, two cats, a guinea pig and Jason Gunn in a 3-bedroom house in the suburb of Dallington. “After the quake, my whanau had nothing. No water, no power, no place to go. So I just opened the doors and let them all come here. It was a tight fit, so some of us had to sleep in the garage. Of course, that meant that the car had to go out on the street. We just never thought about the car. It’s been out there on the street for the best part of five years now. It can’t go on. So I’m grateful that the government is finally doing something [to house the cars].”

Rebuilding Christchurch understands that CRUDE will be partially funded by a series of toll-gates for pedestrians along the perimeter of the Four Avenues. Developer Trough thinks this is only fair. “For too long, people have just been walking along the streets without paying anything at all. They walk into shops, they walk up to the windows, but they don’t pay for anything. Foot traffic is welcome, but it needs to start paying its way, like real traffic does.” When asked about cyclists, Trough was less charitable. “Everyone knows you can’t ride a bike to go shopping. It’s political correctness gone stark raving mad. There is no place for them in this city.”

Given some of the recent bad publicity about the delays to key anchor projects, the government is very keen to see CRUDE up and running as soon as possible. Stage One is expected to be complete by the time the Finance Minister has finished delivering his speech; construction companies are working double-over-time to have Stage Two completed by Queen’s Birthday, when the Queen herself is expected to open the building by ceremonially driving her Bentley through a cavalcade of homeless people. Stage Three has no concrete completion date, as the repurposing of “people parks” is an ongoing project which the government is looking to roll out across the country.

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And here’s a contrast with the previous post – a story from the Washington Post about the success of parklets – when carparks are converted to mini-parks, touched up with a bit of greenery or some furniture.

Remove parking, the argument goes, and business will wither. The reality, though, is more complicated …

For the last few years, Philadelphia has converted a handful of parking spots in front of neighborhood businesses into temporary “parklets” no bigger than the spac e that might fit one or two cars (these tiny interventions are now popular in a lot of cities). Records from adjacent businesses show sales went up about 20 percent immediately after the parks were installed, relative to right beforehand.

Christchurch is in a slightly different situation; instead of converting parking spots to little parks, we should be having a debate about the number of carparks – on street and off street – we should be embedding in our city plans. But we’re not. Instead, we have business “leaders” insisting that carparks are essential to the rebuild; the only dissent is around how many carparks we are talking about, and who should pay for them.

If you go back to the Share an Idea consultation, one of the ideas that came out of this was that the central city had become too “car-centric”. You don’t need to take my word for it – here’s Bob Parker:

“We recognise that the car-centric city we had become needed some change.”

Big issues around the world, such as climate change, brought additional pressure to the plan, and the city needed to become a leader in sustainability. The plan proposes changing all the inner-city one-way streets into two-way routes. [Parker] outlined some of the key ideas that came from the public during that process, including the need for more green spaces and the desire to become a “more iconic place” and create “a more human-scale environment.”

In 2011, the people who live in Christchurch chose a “City in a Garden”; in 2015, the handful of people who run this town have replaced that with a “City in a Carpark”.

As a white middle class dude who likes to spend too much on clothes, I’m often shopping at Ballantynes. I probably pop in every week or two, just to keep an eye on what’s new, what’s good and most importantly, what’s on sale*. I wander in on my way home, or bike over on a Saturday morning. So I was pretty surprised when their new head said the idea that people would bike to his store – as I do – was “crackers”. Talking about the central city and the insatiable desire for car parking, new Chairman Bill Luff said:

The idea that people are going to use public transport and bikes is crackers.

Ballantynes wanted to appoint a visionary new chair, but instead they plumped for a guy who thinks the idea that people would walk, bike, or use public transport to visit his store is crazy. The store is literally across the road from the current bus exchange, and will be diagonally opposite the new bus exchange. Thousands of people go through there every day – maybe they could try and do something to attract some of that custom, rather than whinging and hoping the council stumps up for millions of dollars of infrastructure for their benefit. They have a privileged position in a pedestrian mall, which thousands of people walk through each and every day. Luff then pretty much issues threats to the council:

I come back to my old hobbyhorse. I’m not going to risk another cent of shareholders’ money unless we have some confidence that we have that infrastructure in place and that comes back to visitor car parking.

I’ll definitely be thinking twice before spending any money with a company who thinks so little of people who don’t drive an environmentally destructive Merivale tractor to get to their store.

* I haven’t bought much from Ballys for a while. The last thing I got was some Yeastie Boys beer that was stupid cheap because it was close to its us-by date. Their range has definitely suffered post-quake, and while I try and support them, it’s harder and harder when there is little that I like.

The tensions between the government and the council have flared up again, for the first time under the new council. This time it stems from the obsession with a few developers for the provision of car parking, and the council’s resistance to bankroll them. Yesterday, Georgina Stylianou revealed that the earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee had used his “special powers” to fast-track a car parking building for Phillip Carter, the brother of the Speaker of the House, National MP David Carter. This was followed by a chorus of down-on-their-luck property developers piping in that they too needed more car parks, and that could the government please build some for them.

The sad, bizarre situation in Christchurch right now is that there are more people lobbying for the rights of cars to sit motionless than there are trying to house human beings. I don’t believe that this is what the city asked for, through Share an Idea, but it’s what we’re going to get when the people with all the power are ageing white men for whom the keys to a luxury European car is the most important symbol of status. Even the Press is buying into their narrative, with Stylianou, one of their best reporters, jumping across into an opinion piece that could have been ghost written by the Carter Group. Never mind that here’s a story from less than a month ago about a 400-car park in the central city that sits virtually empty every day. No, the demand for carparks is so obvious and necessary that the developers and their man in charge are going to war with the council, again, to ensure that the ratepayer stumps up for the facilities that they’re too cheap to build. For the citizens of the city, they get hit twice; not only will we be lumped with these dead zones of urbanism, best suited to the 1950’s, but we’re going to pay for it too.

As happens on too many occasion’s under National’s supposedly free-market management of the economy, the risk of development in the Central City is being socialised, whilst the profit is being privatised. This understated quote from the CCC CEO describes it perfectly:

Decisions made by developers, including notably the justice precinct development by the Crown, not to provide car parking on site is creating additional pressure.

These developers are building their buildings, not factoring in enough car parking for their tenants, then going cap in hand to the council and asking them to stump up. When the council tells them to get stuffed, they turn around to their mate Gerry, who overrules the council and the developers get their way. Once again, it’s the taxpayer and the ratepayer who are left to pick up the tab.

In what will likely be quite a controversial move for car-dependent Christchurch, the council are proposing that new residential development be required to provide fewer carparks:

In an attempt to make it easier for landowners to redevelop post-earthquake the council is tossing up whether it should reduce the parking requirements in the District Plan for residential units.

Currently, every residential unit is supposed to provide two car parks but Christchurch City Council staff think by reducing that requirement they could cut development costs.

They have also suggested reducing the number of car parks that new commercial and retail developments need to provide as a way of encouraging people to walk or cycle.

I live in a central city apartment with no car parking. This is fine, as neither me nor my partner owns a car. We both walk to work, the shops, art galleries, cafes and the like. I use one of my bikes if I have to get somewhere further afield. But I realize that some people will need to have a car. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in the CBD at the moment where one can rent a carpark. If we want to make the central city a more attractive place to live – and the results of Share an Idea would suggest we do – then reducing the amount of space dedicated to carparks is a great place to start.