By Collin Gallant on November 6, 2018.
Mum is still the word on what might be in store for a major retail space in downtown Medicine Hat, but the sale of a city parking lot to the new owners of the Parker’s Countrywide furniture is stoking concerns about spaces in the city core.
The sale of the Chokecherry Lot, located at 403 Second Street, west of the store location and across the street from the Esplanade, was approved with a closing price of $459,000.
That lot includes 53 surface spaces, and will, according to Monday’s item, be used to augment parking for a “significant redevelopment of the purchaser’s adjacent property.”
As first reported by the News last May, the developers are Kidae Kim and Deokki Kim. They purchased the building through a foreclosure proceeding at that time, but little information is publicly available about them or their plans for the former furniture store that was once an OK Economy location.
“It’s a good question, and I don’t know,” said Mayor Ted Clugston. “I’m not even pulling your leg.
“There are lots in the downtown that are zoned direct control, but this is zoned commercial, the amount of different uses are basically the sky is the limit.
“We’ve always had a goal of seeing redevelopment downtown since the first mall opened.”
Development commissioner Stan Schwartzenberger told the News that the developer has been working with the planning department, but wouldn’t reveal any plans about the property’s future.
The city has long held the goal of increasing downtown residential units as a way to increase activity and business traffic in the area, which has long suffered from a reputation for being congested and barren after five o’clock.
City administrators also moved to quell concern that parking was about to contract.
A statement ready for release after Monday’s meeting quotes city land department manager Grant MacKay citing city studies that state parking is available.
“There remain several underutilized city-owned parking locations for public use in the downtown,” he said.
A new strategic priority set down by council after last year’s election was to dispose of land the city holds, but considers excess for municipal needs.
Clugston said the parking lot sale puts money into city coffers and bolsters redevelopment of a major property.
“We’ve had parking studies — in the last 15 years there’s probably been 10 of them — and there is enough parking in the downtown,” said Clugston.
Chokecherry pass holders with a December 2018 permit will be offered a refund or alternate space in city-owned lots downtown.
In May, city officials reported that about 40 per cent of the Chokecherry spaces were rented on either a monthly or annual basis, the lowest of the three surface lots it operates.
At the Transit Parkade, all 65 covered spaces were occupied, and the top level was 60 per cent locked up by long-term permit holders.
The entire portfolio recorded a $27,000 loss in 2017, though all lots except the parkade were slightly profitable.
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