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LETTER: Vibrant downtown absolutely includes ample parking, among other things

'We have much more to offer than an impressive clock tower and industrial-sized wheat rods.'

Re: "'Strike when the iron is hot': council revisits downtown," The Gazette, April 13.

We read some interesting information about our dated Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (DARP), and the current council’s struggle to wrap their heads around a renewed downtown vibe, or an electric solution to the lack thereof.

Coun. Natalie Joly is quoted as saying: “The most vibrant downtowns on the planet are the ones with really limited parking … .”  Really?

Let’s get real for a moment, and stop gulping back this new flavour of exaggerated Kool-Aid. 

For one to make the Herculean assumption that the secret recipe to building a vibrant downtown is to simply stifle parking, is a clear indication Joly is out of her comfort zone.

I beg to differ. If this is how the rest of council thinks or perceives our downtown challenge, we have huge mountains to climb.

Successful, vibrant, and prosperous downtowns have not blossomed and survived because of limited parking. It has always been because of multiple factors.

History and experience have taught us that little or no parking has actually stifled economic growth in centres unless the municipality had in place a robust parking and commuting strategy.

One of the most critical factors in the formula for success has and will always be the implementation of a sustainable and equitable parking strategy for the downtown core.

Partnerships are critically important. For example, if you have patrons of the farmers' market parking on the vacant land of the former Grandin Mall, and allow greedy parking enforcement to gift them with pricey citations, it does nothing to support community and growth.

If our imaginative Coun. Joly is thinking of top-tier cities such as Paris, London, Singapore, New York, and such, these most "vibrant” locations on our planet are the furthest from fair and equitable comparables. 

Even the Torontos and the Vancouvers are not St. Albert. Joly is likely thinking of places that have an affordable, robust, and user-friendly public transit system, where taking your own vehicle simply makes no sense. That’s not here. That’s not us.

We have much more to offer than an impressive clock tower and industrial-sized wheat rods. Our downtown deserves much more of a respectful reality check than a grandiose outlandish parallel that serves our community no good.

Our downtown businesses and residents deserve better.

Shawn LeMay, St. Albert


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