A seven-level concrete parking garage is not what Saanich envisioned as a way to welcome people onto the University of Victoria campus.
On Monday night, UVic planners urged council to approve height and parking variances so work could get underway on the school’s new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities. As part of that approval, UVic also wanted support for a 505-stall parking garage.
“The problem I have, and the rest of council has, is with this parking structure. No. 1, it’s too big; No. 2, it’s an ugly building; No. 3, it’s in the wrong place,” Coun. Paul Gerrard said. “It’s not the right project in that place, at the entrance to UVic.”
The proposed structure would be located south of McKenzie Avenue just west of the Gabriola Road entrance to the university. There is currently an existing parking lot and tennis courts as well as heritage buildings on the grounds where the sports facility and parking garage are planned.
“This parking structure is acknowledging that we’ve built buildings on surface parking lots (in the past). We’ve (already) displaced over 230 spaces, and this building displaces another 234,” said Neil Connelly, director of campus planning and sustainability. “We feel the parking garage is a good fit at that particular location.”
Coun. Vicki Sanders said she understands UVic’s request, as the new sports complex will bring increased traffic. However, the school needs to come up with alternatives to what was presented.
“I think there are a variety of places where this could possibly go and perhaps make not so much of an impact, visually. But I understand why it’s (proposed) close to the road,” Sanders said. “We’ve given them an opportunity to look at their plans, and see if there isn’t something else to consider, as far as this parkade goes. Maybe several parkades throughout the campus, or relocate this one somewhere else.”
Though there are no Saanich homeowners close to to the proposed parking garage, residents from the Gordon Head and Cadboro Bay neighbourhoods spoke in opposition of the variances. They say that though they may live away from the area, a parkade will be an eyesore to anyone driving by.
“The general impression is the (community associations) hadn’t been consulted at all on this project,” Gerrard said. “UVic is a vital part of the Saanich community, and they have to be more inclusive than they currently are in the planning process.”
Don Gunn, acting president of the Gordon Head Residents’ Association, says the community understands the parking garage is probably required. People just aren’t keen on the imposing location.
“Our concern is that we have been encouraging the university to appear more open and welcoming to the community and putting a fairly massive parking garage on McKenzie really doesn’t accomplish that,” he said.
Connelly says the university is looking at ways to “soften” the visual impact of the parking garage, and planners will work with Saanich staff to have a new proposal back to council as soon as possible.
Though the parking garage and sports complex are separate buildings, the variances are all under one permit, Construction on the sports facility can’t begin until the parking matter is settled.
According to UVic, the project will come at a cost of $58 million and is optimistically set to open in 2014.
Council voted to postpone a decision on the variances.
Mayor Frank Leonard and Coun. Dean Murdock both abstain from participating in UVic discussions and votes as Leonard periodically teaches a class at the university, and Murdock’s wife is an employee there.
The planned Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities would be a 17,685 square-metre complex including a 2,100 seat gym, a four-court field house, an elevated running track and climbing centre.
It will also be home to CanAssist, a program that helps develop and deliver technologies, programs and services that improve the quality of life of those with special needs.
There are also plans to build a 50m competition pool as well as a leisure pool in the future.