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Vancouver Waterfront plan is cutting back on parking

Modified plans call for nearly 10 percent fewer parking spaces than original design

By , Columbian staff writer
Published: October 9, 2016, 6:00am
6 Photos
A new public pier at the foot of Grant Street, seen here under early construction in late August, will be a major public attraction at The Waterfront. A hole has been dug for the first building, which can be seen here above Columbia Way. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)
A new public pier at the foot of Grant Street, seen here under early construction in late August, will be a major public attraction at The Waterfront. A hole has been dug for the first building, which can be seen here above Columbia Way. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Parking at the up-and-coming Vancouver Waterfront may be heading toward a tighter fit after Vancouver officials announced recently that 770 parking spaces are planned to be cut from the original blueprints.

City of Vancouver Senior Planner Jon Wagner told the city’s planning commission at a meeting in late September that, thanks in part to a recent decision by the Federal Aviation Administration, parking will shrink from 7,799 to 7,029 spaces — a nearly 10 percent reduction.

Wagner said last week that parking will still exceed the minimum 5,300 spaces, though the number can still change as new buildings are developed and reviewed.

The revision in plans comes as the city faces large-scale growth in its city center, and parking continues to be an issue, as it has been in Portland. The full picture may not be in view, said Vancouver Parking Manager Mike Merrill, who pointed out that the Port of Vancouver, which owns the former Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay building, has not yet finalized its own waterfront redevelopment and parking plans.

“I think people are always concerned about where they are going to park and whether there’s going to be enough parking,” Merrill said. “But now what we’ve seen is some recovery and new developments downtown, and some of the surface lots and gravel lots are starting to become structures. I think people are worried they will start to see some parking availability tie up.”

Parking at the waterfront currently consists of about 40 spaces along Esther and Grant streets and Columbia Way. Chad Eiken, the city’s community and economic development director, said there are plans to develop one a block at the corner of Grant Street into interim surface parking.

FAA decision

A recent FAA decision is a major factor in planning waterfront parking. The FAA told the city and Portland-based developers Gramor Development that some of the buildings planned for the waterfront will need to be shorter to allow planes to safely descend into nearby Pearson Field.

The ruling affects about half of the buildings in the development, some of which were planned to be 20 to 22 stories tall.

And while parking requirements for new buildings are based on a number of factors, the FAA’s decision reduced the size of the buildings, which then prompted a cut in parking, Wagner said. But, “If anything, we’ve probably increased the ratio of available parking if it goes in at this level,” he said.

Another factor in reducing the parking is a decision not to build underground parking under city streets. Eiken said building under the streets also meant designing around utilities such as sewer lines, an expensive process. He said it already costs nearly $40,000 per parking space to build a parking structure.

“In some ways it simplifies the overall construction,” he said. “The original plan showed structured, underground parking under streets. As you can imagine, it creates a lot of complications: You have to make the structure handle (the weight of) live loads, trucks, that kind of thing, in addition to the buildings itself.”

The city’s Waterfront Master Plan encompasses 21 city blocks along the Columbia River, at the site of the old Boise Cascade paper mill, and was first adopted in 2009. It planned for 3,300 residences, 400,000 square feet of retail space, 1.12 million square feet of office space and 160 hotel rooms.

The Vancouver Downtown Association, which has kept a close eye on the city’s parking options, declined to comment.

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