Following a first meeting of the Waterfront Task Force last week, the White Rock Business Improvement Association has asked city council to grant a temporary respite from pay parking on Marine Drive.
In a letter reporting on the Feb. 28 meeting of the task force – a city-supported joint venture of the BIA and the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce to revive flagging business on the Marine Drive strip – BIA president Ernie Klassen suggested the move would be a “brief but symbolic guest reprieve that will help frame the positive, forward-thinking efforts of all three parties.”
The BIA proposal is that free parking would go into effect immediately but last only until May 1.
After council received the letter Monday evening, Mayor Wayne Baldwin suggested seeking staff input on the plan.
He said that while “the city will certainly do what it can” to support business initiatives on the waterfront, revenue from pay parking represents “a substantial chunk of change – it could have an impact on taxation.”
Baldwin noted the city has already committed to “many million dollars of capital work” on the waterfront, as well as supporting the “trolley” bus to move the public to and from Marine Drive this summer.
Following the task force’s inaugural meeting, BIA acting executive director Russ Davies and chamber executive director Cliff Annable told Peace Arch News of the groups’ slogan “The Drive is Alive” and the desire to involve the public.
The BIA letter was sent to council the following day.
Klassen said the free-parking initiative could also be a pilot project for which the BIA would canvass its membership and provide a “category-based metrics document” measuring the success of the move.
“Free parking will allow us all a bit of breathing room to take this potentially two-month period to refresh our crown jewel, reboot the attitudes and project a positive media message to residents and guests.”
Coun. Bill Lawrence – who attended the task force meeting – told council it was a “very healthy session” that produced some “really great ideas.” Among these, he said, were parking options the city should look at, including not only the short period of free parking suggested by Klassen but also making the first two to three hours of parking at the waterfront free in general.
In PAN interviews with members of council in January, only Lawrence expressed a desire to change the parking system.
Klassen had suggested granting free parking through March and April would operate in tandem with two major action items planned by the task force.
Between March 15 and 20, the BIA – on behalf of the task force – will conduct an outreach to all registered commercial property owners and real estate agents representing owners or who have clients interested in the waterfront.
Klassen said the BIA will seek a meeting to discuss challenges faced by commercial ratepayers and potential buyers – including property valuation and tenancy challenges, marketplace changes and future plans for redevelopment on the waterfront.
On April 1, a first “community engagement module” for the task force will invite participants to show support for Marine Drive during a public ‘spring cleaning’ event that will include repainting and power-washing of business premises and patios.
Residents and guests will also be invited to enter a competition in which they make suggestions for the kind of businesses they’d like to see occupy empty stores on Marine Drive – with winners claiming free dinners offered by participating waterfront restaurants.