The fleeting era of free parking at the Vancouver waterfront has come to an end.
Starting today, the company developing The Waterfront Vancouver will charge for parking on the two lots west of Grant Street and another on its east side. The blocks are slated for future development but currently provide parking for visitors to WildFin American Grill, Twigs Bistro and other waterfront locations.
The parking fees charged by Gramor Development on the three Waterfront Vancouver lots will match the rate charged at the city of Vancouver’s downtown meters. Visitors to the waterfront lots will pay at kiosks recently installed at the parking lots. The change to the private lots comes a couple of months after the city began charging for parking along waterfront district streets, using the same fee structure as the rest of downtown, which charges $1.25 per hour for most metered spaces.
Gramor president Barry Cain said the company held off on imposing parking fees when the waterfront opened but needs to start charging to avoid the lots becoming overcrowded with people who would park at the waterfront for free but venture elsewhere downtown.
“We just wanted to get past the construction state we were in,” he said.
In the long term, Cain said, the plan is to replace the surface lots with a central garage to serve the entire waterfront area, but any such change is a long way off. The garage would be opened before existing surface parking is removed, he said.
“There would never be less parking than there is now,” he said. “Our goal is to keep everything going like it has been.”
The change also affects workers at waterfront-area businesses. According to multiple workers who spoke to The Columbian, employee parking has been free until now, although employees were directed to park in a lot near the eastern end of the waterfront district.
The employees said they had been told that the cost of a monthly parking pass would now be $80, although some said they already use or were exploring alternate transportation options such as buses or bikes.
There might be an additional option soon, according to Vancouver parking services manager Steve Kaspan. The city currently offers a discounted permit for hourly-wage employees that can be used to park in one of the city’s permit parking zones, and a plan is in the works to add a second discount zone closer to the waterfront.
The discount program, known as the “purple permit,” debuted in June and currently is only usable in an area around Jefferson Street and Kauffman Avenue west of the Clark County Public Service Center and Courthouse. Employees who work in downtown Vancouver, have an hourly wage of $20 or less and have no outstanding parking tickets can apply for a permit to use on-street parking in the zone for $20 per month.
Vancouver’s Downtown Association President Steve Becker said the organization has been getting an increased number of calls for information about the discount program following the closure in September of another temporary public lot on Port of Vancouver land north of WareHouse ’23.
Application information and a link to an exact map of the zone can be viewed at cityofvancouver.us/ced/page/hourly-wage-employee-parking-permit-and-zone.
Kaspan said the second zone will be located along West Seventh Street near the intersection with King Street, north of the west end of the waterfront district. The area is accessed by turning west onto Seventh Street at the intersection with Grant Street where it passes underneath the railroad berm.
The new zone isn’t active yet, but Kaspan said it will open as soon as the city installs the necessary signage, likely by the end of the month. The signs will designate the area for two-hour parking, but employees with hourly-wage permits will be able to park there all day.