Cordova Parkade in Vancouver’s Gastown rated as one of 10 ‘coolest’

Cordova Parkade in Vancouver’s Gastown rated as one of 10 ‘coolest’ by Suzan Lazaruk was originally published by the Province on August 12, 2013.

The Cordova Parkade in Gastown has made a list of the world’s 10 coolest parkades, according to Stress Free Parking website.

Who knew parkades could be cool and that one of the world’s 10 coolest is in Vancouver?

Drivers may think of parkades as unsafe, dark and dusty caverns that smell of exhaust, oil and urine, but their stunning designs apparently can stop traffic.

The website Stress Free Parking has shortlisted the 10 “coolest,” including Birmingham, England’s Millennium Point, which glows different colours, and CarTowers in Wolfsburg, Germany, featuring robotic elevators.

Included on the list is Gastown’s own Cordova Parkade, the only Canadian entry.

Once providing parking for the old Woodward’s department store, the six-storey facility with 700 spaces was rebuilt by the City of Vancouver 10 years ago, using pieces of the bridge that used to connect it to an adjoining parkade.

“This car park was intended to help revitalize Vancouver’s downtown district,” said Stress Free Parking on its website announcing the list.

The design, by Henriquez Partners Architects, pays “homage to the surrounding historic buildings by having the exterior screen latticed granite and steel, inspired by 19th-century train stations,” it said.

Responded architect Gregory Henriquez: “It’s sweet that parkades are being acknowledged, but we don’t want to build a lot of parkades.”

Parking lots in Vancouver now are exclusively built underground to encourage street life, but an exception was made for Gastown because none of the turn-of-the-century buildings has its own parking, he said.

“It was a necessary evil for Gastown,” said Henriquez. “This will probably be the first and the last parkade that I’m involved with.”

The city bought the 345,000-square-foot structure, originally built in 1957, for $11 million when Woodward’s closed in 1995.

The renovation included retail at street level, and the main original tenant was a 5,400-square-metre historically themed underground tourist attraction called Storyeum that went bankrupt long ago.

Other parkades that made the coolest list include the Michigan Theatre in Detroit, an Italian Renaissance-style auditorium built in 1926 on the site of Henry Ford’s first workshop and saved from demolition in the 1970s (and featured in the film 8 Mile); the Parc des Celestins car park in Lyon, France, a circular building with a refracting telescope at ground level that offers a kaleidoscope view of the car park; and 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami, Fla., which resembles a house of cards and offers panoramic views of the city’s South Beach area.

The Cordova Parkade was also named last year as one of the “world’s 18 strangest parking garages,” by Popular Mechanics magazine.

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