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Council delays vote to sell parkades

Push to put two money-losing city-owned parkades up for sale on private market pushed back by city council.
Heart of the Harbour Parkade retouched
Thunder Bay's Waterfront Parkade. (File)

THUNDER BAY – A decision on whether to put Thunder Bay’s two city-owned parkades has been pushed back to October, with city councillors saying they need more information to make the call.

Administration delivered a report on the feasibility of selling the parkades in July, but several councillors said Monday they were still missing crucial data.

A proposal from Coun. Aldo Ruberto to put the facilities on the market will now return to council on Oct. 18, along with supplementary information.

The parkades lost a combined $281,500 in 2019, with the Victoriaville location accounting for more than 94 per cent of those losses, according to the July report.

The report indicated there would be little interest from the private sector, given the parkades’ known history of operational deficits.

Coun. Shelby Ch’ng said she’d need far more wide-ranging information on the finances of the parkades, including how the pandemic would impact their value in the short-term.

Coun. Mark Bentz agreed.

“None of us have the information to support a divestiture tonight, let’s just be honest,” he said.

Senior city staff said selling the assets could raise a tangle of issues. Their presence has supported the lowering of minimum parking requirements for businesses in the downtown cores, for example, said general manager Karen Lewis.

Manager of realty services Joel DePeuter called the parkades a “valued public asset” that justified their financial losses.

Staff have also warned selling the Victoriaville Parkade could be “complex” because the McKellar Mall is located beneath it, containing some city offices, and due to an agreement with Synergy North around rooftop solar panels.

The Thunder Bay Parking Authority formally opposed putting the parkades up for sale, with chair Chris Krumpholz telling councillors businesses in the north core in particular want to see the Waterfront Parkade stay under city ownership.

The parkade could prove more valuable if new businesses in the area, like the Goods and Co. Market, bring more traffic. They could also be a short-term solution as a major reconstruction of downtown streets disrupts traffic in the coming years, Krumpholz said.

Coun. Andrew Foulds supported the delay on the vote, saying key stakeholders like the Waterfront District BIA had not been formally consulted.

The Parking Authority has begun efforts to trim losses by stretching out capital maintenance and gradually increasing revenue, said parking authority supervisor Jonathan Paske. Those changes are expected to reduce annual losses to about $150,000, he said.

He also noted the parkade losses are made up for by revenue from on-street parking and tickets.

The city is also exploring the potential to bring in new revenue at the Victoriaville parkade by renting space to companies like car rental agencies or secure storage operators, staff indicated in the report to council.

Council voted 7-4 to delay the decision on the parkade sale.

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