WINNIPEG - Mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis has pledged to reduce the number of surface parking lots in downtown Winnipeg by granting vast new development responsibilites to the Winnipeg Parking Authority.
Standing on the rooftop of downtown's Tavern United pub, Wasylycia-Leis told reporters she would use proceeds from the $23.6-million sale of the Winnipeg Square Parkade to provide seed money for four new mix-used developments that would include parkade levels as well as space for arts groups, residential units or businesses.
Wasylycia-Leis said the Winnipeg Parking Authority would oversee these developments, which would be city-owned.
She said she believes the parking authority has the expertise to do the job. She said she did not believe this would create conflict with downtown development agency CentreVenture, which is already tasked with providing seed money for parkades and mixed-use developments.
The cash from the Winnipeg Square Parkade sale has been set aside while the determines the best way to use it.
The intention has been to use the $23.6 million to repair the city-owned Civic Centre and Millennium Library parkades and also build new parking facilities.
The repairs to the existing parkades alone are expected to cost $7 million. The single new parkade in the Exchange District cost $7 million.
Wasylycia-Leis said she would create a new advisory board to come up with a plan within 18 months of being elected.
She also pledged to create tax incentives to encourage owners of surface lots to build up, but does not yet know what those incentives will be.
Incumbent mayor Sam Katz said he has been promising for months to build new parkades and fix existing ones using the Winnipeg Square windfall. He also pledged to release a surface-parking plan next week.
Katz said he has not seen a downtown parking strategy prepared by former Winnipeg Parking Authority chief operating officer Dave Hill.
Wasylycia-Leis and Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi claim the report has been stifled by senior city staff.
Katz says he has no knowledge of such a move.
Wasylycia-Leis and incumbent Sam Katz are slated to debate downtown issues tonight at 5:30 p.m. The Free Press will be providing live coverage of the debate.