Car parks taking over central Christchurch

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 11:31 20/07/2013
car parks

The number of parking spaces in the four avenues has risen 34 per cent in the past 17 months.

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Christchurch has become a city of car parks.

The number of parking spaces in the four avenues is growing, with fears they make Christchurch look like "an extremely ugly, car-infested city".

The number of off-street parking spaces on vacant sections in the city centre has grown by a third from 1809 in February last year to 2421 now. The number of parking sites has grown from 33 to 43.

Gap Filler director Coralie Winn said the car parks make the city centre look ugly.

"A lot of Christchurch is in a raw, ugly state, but the cars parked haphazardly everywhere are not a good look.

"Any site without a fence can be used for parking at the moment. If parking is free, people will drive rather than cycle or bus. The long-term impact of years of free parking will be bad."

The Christchurch City Council has granted consent for 16 new car parks in the city centre since the February 2011 earthquakes.

There were about 6000 parking spaces in the city centre before the earthquakes, but mainly in parking buildings that have now been either demolished or closed.

Council road corridor operations manager Paul Burden said the growing number of parking spaces showed more people were coming to the city centre.

"I'm not overly concerned about the proliferation of car parks, because that means that people are coming into town one way or the other," he said.

"Once we have improved public transport infrastructure in place we can look at turning the screws on the amount of car parking in the city centre."

Wilson Parking chief executive Steve Evans did not respond to calls for comment. However, he told The Press last year that parking helped the regeneration of empty sites.

"Every development is reliant on people being able to park their car. Re:Start would not have happened if there hadn't been parking to support it," he said.

"I don't see any connection between a stifling of development and car parks using those properties. I think the reverse is the case."

But there is some solace. Burden said the car parks were a temporary phenomenon in the city centre.

"It's a shame that we're in this situation, but I wholeheartedly believe it is temporary.

"Once new construction activity ramps up, lots of them will disappear. The economic return on private property will be far and away more by building a building rather than leaving it as a car park."

New Zealand Institute of Architects Canterbury chairman David Hill agreed.

"Vacant sites and car parks are negative at the moment, but it is just a temporary thing.

"The city centre is quite surreal. There is a lot of empty space in there. There is a lot of empty land. But that is a great opportunity and it is for Christchurch to take it."

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- The Press

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