The Waterfront Vancouver could be getting a central parking garage as soon as 2021, according to documents filed with the city of Vancouver.
A preliminary application calls for a seven-story structure with 12,700 square feet of ground floor retail and approximately 740 parking spaces on the levels above.
The proposal, submitted last week, comes from Tualatin, Ore.-based Gramor Development, which has spearheaded the overall waterfront development project and built four of itsbuildings: the Rediviva apartment tower, the Murdock office building and the two restaurant buildings flanking the Grant Street Pier.
The proposed garage would be located on Block 7 of the waterfront, at the eastern corner of Grant Street and Columbia Way and between the RiverWest apartment building and the BNSF Railway berm. The block is one of several along the northern side of the waterfront that are used for paved surface parking.
The pre-application describes a 43,855-square-foot building that would be served by a single entrance and exit onto an access driveway between Block 7 and the adjacent Block 5, with connections to both Columbia Way and Cascade Street. The garage would be a gated pay-to-park facility, with some spaces available for monthly parking.
The ground floor retail portion would occupy the entire frontage along Columbia Way, as well as 59 feet of the frontage on the Grant Street side. The upper levels would have mesh screening instead of windows in order to maintain ventilation while having a “unified design theme” with the ground floor level, according to the pre-application packet.
The garage is intended to replace the surface lots on blocks 5, 7, 10 and 11 — a total of 492 spaces — allowing those blocks to be marketed for sale and development. The 144 surface spaces on Block 7 would be relocated to one or a combination of blocks 1, 2, 13, and 19 during construction.
The size of the proposed garage would come close to the 809 stalls in the Park ‘n Go lot underneath the Vancouvercenter and would exceed the size of other downtown parking lots and garages such as the 261-stall Columbia Bank garage at Fifth and Broadway streets and the 529-stall Murdock Plaza garage at Eighth and C streets. For further comparison, the Vancouver Mall parking lot has roughly 5,000 spaces.
The pre-application proposal calls for construction to begin in late summer 2020 and continue for approximately 10 months. A pre-application conference with the city is scheduled for 11 a.m. June 13.
Gramor Development president Barry Cain and director of development Matt Grady, who submitted the application, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Parking demand, cost
The application comes at a time when city officials have been grappling with rising demand for parking spurred by downtown business and population growth. The city has been experimenting with policy options such as angled parking on some streets and discounted street parking zones for hourly wage employees.
The Waterfront Vancouver is the foremost example of downtown’s growth. While it still has plenty of empty lots for surface parking, that won’t last forever.
Five of the 21 waterfront blocks are fully developed or under construction, with development plans in the works for several others. A central parking garage is an inevitable necessity, Gramor and other waterfront developers have said, to keep pace with the district’s growth.
Still, last week’s proposal comes as a bit of a surprise because Gramor officials have previously described such plans as being far in the future, once more buildings are constructed. As recently as November 2018, when Gramor began charging parking fees for the surface lots, Cain described the parking garage as a long-term plan.
There’s certainly no rush from a contract standpoint: The development agreement between Gramor and Vancouver gives the company the ability to use blocks 5, 7, 10 and 11 for temporary surface parking until 2024, with an option to extend until as late as 2030 if a central parking garage is not yet economically feasible.
The economic feasibility is key — there has to be enough anticipated traffic to cover costs of building the garage, and those costs can be extremely steep. The pre-application packet doesn’t provide an estimated cost for the waterfront garage, but some other recent parking projects offer insight.
When Tri-Met was developing an extension of its MAX Yellow Line light rail to Vancouver as part of the now-defunct Columbia River Crossing project, the agency outlined plans for a trio of garages to serve commuters at each of the two planned downtown stations and the terminus at Clark College.
The price tag: up to $176 million for all three, breaking down to a cost of about $55,000 to $61,000 per stall.