British Columbia

Save New Westminster parkade, build roof-top park say residents

A group of residents in New Westminster continue to fight to preserve a 60-year-old concrete parking lot that divide's the city's historic downtown from the water front.

Residents resist plan to demolish the Front Street parkade and rally for a roof-top park

The view from the top of the Front Street parkade between 6th Street and Begbie Street in New Westminster. (CBC)

A group of residents in New Westminster were on top of the Front Street parkade Saturday, admiring the views of the Fraser River and making arguments for a city park.

"It's the kind of view that you need to buy a water-front condo to get," said Roland Guasparini, who is with a group called the Save the Parkade Committee.

New Westminster resident Roland Guasparini wants the Front Street parkade saved and a park built on top that takes in the views of the Fraser River. (CBC)

"This is a way for the public to actually get that without having to pay for a waterfront view condo."

The group hopes to halt the demolition of the western portion of the parkade which runs along Front Street between Sixth Street and Begbie Street.

For the past five years New Westminster council has been working on a plan to remove part of the parkade, considered an eye-sore by many and a barrier between the city's historic downtown and its Fraser River waterfront.

The Front Street parkade is a barrier between New Westminster's historic downtown and the Fraser River waterfront. (Google Streetview)

Under the plan, an eastern section of the parkade will be saved and renovated, retaining 450 parking stalls. The city says it's enough parking to meet demand.

But residents like Guasparini don't like the plan, even though it's been approved with work scheduled to begin this summer.

"We think for the $11 million that's being planned for a demolition project...we think there's lots of room in there to actually beautify it and probably save money," he said.

The group takes its inspiration from New York City's High Line Park.

It was built along a two-kilometre section of unused, railway line in Manhattan.

Critics say removing the parkade would improve access to the New Westminster waterfront. (Theresa Lalonde/CBC)

"Again this option was never fully presented, when we challenged some of the assumptions that were made we don't think the answers really support demolition," said Guaspirini.

New Westminster council doesn't support the proposal and wants to move forward with its project.

"A lot of people feel like the parkade is an eye-sore, said councillor and acting mayor Patrick Johnstone.

"So we found this sort of middle approach...which is going to open up Front St, it's going to open up a bunch of historic businesses, historic storefronts on Front St. and it's going to make better connections between Columbia Street and the waterfront."

Westminster Pier Park is right across the street from the Front Street parkade. The mayor says having two parks that close to each other is not a good use of resources. (City of New Westminster)

A park —  Westminster Pier Park — has already been built along the waterfront, next to the planned demolition.

New Westminster's mayor is on record saying having  two parks that close to each other is not a good use of resources.

READ MORE | New Westminster Front Street revitiization strategy

On mobile? Click here for a map showing the Front Street Parkade's location

with files from the CBC's Richard Zussman

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