Former Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy has floated plans for three new parking stations in the city centre after a survey of businesses identified a lack of parking as a major disincentive to working in or visiting the city.
If built, the parking stations would bring more than 1300 additional parking spots to inner Newcastle and offset the loss of more than 1000 spaces in recent years.
“The lack of parking, in my view is the major problem facing the city at the moment,” Mr McCloy said.
“It’s chaos; you can’t get a park at Marketown, you can’t get a park in the city. Businesses are suffering and property owners are suffering because they aren’t getting their rents paid.”
Mr McCloy who owns several key sites in the city, has been on a collision course with the state government over changes that have occurred in the city centre as a result of the $650 million-plus Revitalising Newcastle Program.
The McCloy Group recently commissioned a survey of 300 businesses and workers regarding how they had been affected by the changes.
While some welcomed the changes and endorsed the government’s strategy of promoting public transport over private vehicle use, many complained that the city become difficult to access.
“Customers are telling me they have driven around the block a few times and then left before coming in to collect things because they can’t find parking,” one respondent wrote.
“Other people tell me they won’t come into Newcastle because the congestion and lack of parking causes them too much stress.”
Despite the sentiment, Newcastle City Council says its parking data shows there is an average 2000 vacant car spaces available in the city and its fringes on an average weekday.
The new parking stations could be built at the former Dairy Farmers Corner (455 spaces), land behind the former Wickham train station (630 spaces) and a parcel of land that incorporates an existing car park at Perkins Street (231 cars).
The potential nine level Honeysuckle car park falls within the footprint of the University of Newcastle’s Honeysuckle campus development.
In line with the broader strategy of discouraging private vehicle use, the campus plans only allow for 12 parking spaces for 6500 students.
Mr McCloy’s nine level car park proposal would incorporate a creative entertainment complex on the site.
“It’s a commonsense approach that shows what can be done on parcel of land like that,” Mr McCloy said.
”It would provide an extra 630 new car parking spaces and, at the same time, the building would benefit the wider community.”
Architect Barney Collins who researched and sketched the parking proposals said reflected an ‘out of the box’ to approach to land use.
“Essentially they are examples of mixed-use parking solutions,” he said.
“Jeff [McCloy] said to me where could we put more parking in the city? I said the best approach would be to incorporate it into a public art project or work with an existing land holder like the university or council,” he said.
A University of Newcastle spokeswoman said the university’s priority was to use the land in exciting ways for the benefit of students, staff and the community.
“This includes innovative spaces for education and research, as well as spaces especially designed to connect with the community – including hospitality and retail, entertainment, and our innovation hub,” she said.
“By maximising space for these uses, and encouraging uptake of active and public transport, we believe we will make a positive and lasting contribution to our city.”
Hunter-Central Coast Development Corporation chief executive Michael Cassel said the Revitalising Newcastle program had brought an unprecedented level of new infrastructure and opportunities to the city.
“The government’s investment is designed to change the way people move and experience the growing city – including encouraging more people on to public transport or to walk and cycle in a more connected city centre,” he said.
“The Newcastle City Centre Parking Strategy completed as part of the Revitalising Newcastle program in 2017, showed that demand didn’t outstrip supply for parking in the city centre at that time.”
“Ultimately, it is up to the private market and the City of Newcastle to decide if car parking is a viable development in the city.”
A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman disputed the need for more parking in the city centre.
“Today for example, there are more than 100 vacant car spaces at No 2 car park, which is less than 10 minutes' walk to Honeysuckle and just five minutes from businesses on King and Hunter streets. Similarly, on any day of the week, the top level of the Gibson Street car park on King street is vacant with spaces also available on the level below,” she said.
“If Mr McCloy thinks there is sufficient demand to build a multi-level car park in the city, he is welcome to commence that conversation with the City of Newcastle. That said, such suggestions seem a little glass half empty when you consider that the light rail and its benefits are just two months from starting.”
“Rather than any shortage of car spaces, the main issue we need to resolve is that drivers do not know how to find the vacant spaces. That's why the City is currently working with the developers of our parking app EasyPark on technology that will show drivers where to find vacant parking spaces.”