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The pros and cons of going underground at Ophir car park

October 3, 2022

Would an underground car park with a piazza at street level work? Orange News Examiner Art Department.

By Peter Holmes


A multi-storey basement parking facility on the corner of Lords Place and Kite Street will be one option open to the developers who end up getting their hands on the Ophir car park site.


Keeping it underground would avoid the eyesore of a multi-level concrete box.



It would also allow for a piazza with dining, drinking and accommodation options to be built at street level.


But going underground comes at a price.


According to Australian parking management and parking services provider PriPark, the cost of building a car park in Australia depends on a range of factors including location, materials used and whether the car park is above or below ground level.




It says open deck, multi-storey car parks are between $650 and $1,500 per one-square-metre to build.


Basement car parks in CBD areas are $1,060 – $3,100 per one-square-metre, while basement car parks outside the CBD range from $930- $2,800 per one-square-metre.


A "construction cost indicator" built by RLB Intelligence [see image below] doesn't have an option for regional car parks, however the price for a non-CBD basement car park in Sydney is estimated at $1,200 to $1,820 per one-square-metre, however it should be noted that this is based on construction prices in the last quarter of 2021, before the cost of materials skyrocketed.



The RLB Intelligence calculator.

According to Nick Redmond, Orange City Council’s manager of communications and engagement, a staff report will come to councillors in the coming months “seeking a resolution to call for expressions of interest for the development of the Ophir Car Park site”.



Multi-storey parking has been talked about in Orange for years.



As the population expands, the CBD becomes more clogged, and residents find themselves doing block laps to try and find somewhere to pull in, the matter is coming to a head.

On March 31, 2021, council revealed the possible sites for a new multi-storey CBD car park. In seeking community feedback, it listed reasons for and against each location.


The Woolies car park, between Anson and Sale Streets:

  • Parking spaces right alongside key shopping areas

  • Construction phase would involve significant disruption to neighbouring businesses

  • Good potential for including ground-level or first-floor retail opportunities or even roof-top residential options

  • May require demolition of building fronting Kite Street to provide increased car access


The Ophir car park on the corner of Kite St and Lords Place:

  • Parking spaces right alongside key shopping area

  • Construction phase would involve less disruption to neighbouring businesses

  • Option of sky-bridge connection to shopping centre across Kite Street

  • Good potential for including ground floor retail opportunities or even roof-top residential options


Ophir car park. Google Street View.

The Civic Centre car park, behind the Council offices in Lords Place:

  • Short walking distance to key shopping areas

  • Close to Civic Square cultural spaces (library/museum/gallery/theatre and new conservatorium)

  • Could offer parking for major events in Robertson park (Anzac day, night markets)

  • Construction phase would involve disruption to nearby facilities



The vacant block of the former Williams rural supply store in Peisley Street:

  • Close to Civic Square cultural spaces (library/museum/gallery and new conservatorium). Further away from shopping centres.

  • Construction phase would involve less disruption to neighbouring businesses

  • Longer walking distance to shops

  • Smaller site with less capacity




The Sale Street car-park alongside the rear of the Ex-Services Club

  • Parking spaces right alongside key shopping area

  • Smaller site with less capacity

  • Potential for exploring joint car park project with neighbouring land owners

  • Construction phase would involve less disruption to neighbouring businesses


The car park in Little Summer Street behind the fire station

  • Close to businesses in the top block of the CBD

  • No disruption to nearby businesses during the construction phase


The car park in Endsleigh Avenue opposite the former DPI building

  • A short walk to transport hubs for trains and busses

  • Alongside the new East Orange precinct

  • No disruption to nearby businesses during the construction phase


The Ophir car park site has come out in front as the preferred option according to council polling.


Orange City Council has used this image of French car park built in 2014 to illustrate the type of construction that could end up on the site. Copyright: Brisac Gonzalez.

While the most recent poll was not scientific and had no margin of error, it gave council staff at least an idea of what some engaged community members were thinking.

It found that 42.6 percent preferred the Ophir car park site for development.


It was followed by the Woolies car park (38 percent) and the Civic Centre car park (8.4 percent).




The Sale Street car park near the Ex Services was just behind on 8.1 percent.


The Little Summer Street Car Park and the Endsleigh Avenue Car Park were also tested with both scoring below 2 percent support.


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There were 345 people surveyed through the YourSay "online engagement platform".


“We are not set on any one idea but are keen to hear from the commercial sector about how this site could be developed," mayor Jason Hamling said in late September.



A basement car park with a piazza at street level would create the sort of outdoor dining and meeting precinct that was unsuccessfully pitched for Anson Street a few years ago, with Lords Place south seemingly now the preferred location for such an area.



While some businesses are understandably in favour of the creation of outdoor pods on Lords Place, including those that might benefit from al fresco seating paid for and maintained by ratepayers, others say it is not the ideal location, and will only lead to a loss in custom.

Council points to the introduction of 15-minute parking spots as a remedy. But who will police this, and how ruthless will they be?



What if collecting a script from the pharmacy takes 20 minutes because there is a long queue?


What if there is a delay in picking up your takeaway because the restaurant has been slammed, or is down on staff?


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Will 15 minutes turn into 30 minutes, 45 minutes, before a ticket is issued? Or will the $100-plus fines be doled out without mercy at the 16-minute mark? Or is there a sweet spot somewhere in-between?


Lights in McNamara Lane. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.
Some point to the fact McNamara Lane hasn’t yet taken off as a meeting place or magnet for the groovies, despite the car park lights and the murals. You're more likely to hear people whine about how the car park there is always full.


And councillor Jeff Whitton says the north-south wind that whips along Lords Place south often makes it a rather unpleasant place in which to sit outside for any period of time. It begs the question: Will council enclose these pods in thick plastic flaps to keep the wind and the sun and the snow out? And if so, how will they be protected against vandalism?



While above ground multi-level car parks are generally concrete boxes not known for their architectural significance, such a box on the corner of Lords Place and Kite Street actually wouldn't likely damage the views on this intersection, where it could be argued architectural significance or beauty is not in great supply (the former Occidental Hotel being the exception).


Not a lot of Heritage beauty on this intersection. Google Street View.
Boxy. Google Street View.

Another issue for a multi-storey basement car park would be Blackmans Swamp Creek, which runs right by the site of the Ophir car park.


“The channel would limit underground,” said Nick Redmond. “Underground is possible but at a cost. Generally airspace is a more affordable option. The EOI [expressions of interest] process will help determine the best commercial options that also deliver parking.”


PriPark says of the many factors that affect the cost of construction, “most are due to the materials used in construction. For example, asphalt is slightly cheaper than concrete (depending on the car park size) and is easier to repair. However, concrete is more durable and is less likely to require maintenance”.



Other costs include design, council, certifier and project management fees; earth, electrical and storm water works; kerbing, landscaping, line marking and lighting.


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On a council web page published in March 2021 and updated on September 2, 2022, former mayor Reg Kidd is quoted, regarding $4.5 million council had put aside for a multi-storey parking station: “For $4.5 million, I imagine we’re looking at a three-or four storey multi-level car park, somewhere right alongside the CBD.



Blackmans Swamp Creek runs by the car park site. Google Maps.


“Structures like this in other regional centres contain first-floor retail stores or even residential apartments. Contemporary decked car-parks are designed with sensor technology to show where the vacant spaces are.”




He also suggested the facility could be a venue for undercover weekend markets, and that “there could be a system to allocate parking on one of the levels to people who work in the CBD”.



A key issue will be the cost of parking.


If the site is given, leased or sold to a developer, the operator of the private parking station will have start-up and ongoing costs to recoup. They can do this in a number of ways, but key are parking fees and rents or sales from any shops or apartments built on the site.


So are the people of Orange ready to pay again for parking?



In July 2019 free parking at the Ophir car park ended when parking meters were installed and a $3 fee was charged.



In April 2020 the car park became free. Mayor Kidd said at the time the “change is one of the council’s latest local responses to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re continuing to make sure we’re complying with the recommendations of national and state health authorities when it comes to the operation of council facilities.



“We were concerned that the pressing of buttons on the paid parking machines in the Ophir car park could be a potential problem. There was only very limited contact, but anything we can do to reduce that risk is worth doing.”


With staffing, cleaning and utility bills, and the cost of maintaining facilities such as lifts, would the operator of a brand new and hugely expensive multi-storey car park keep the fee at $3 a day, or take the opportunity to test the market at a much higher rate - say $8 or $10 a day?

Would Orange City Council subsidise this via ratepayers, or would it wipe its hands of it and let the market decide?


The Orange News Examiner needs your support so we can keep telling stories like this one. You can make a one-off donation or a small monthly pledge at Patreon or PayPal. A big thank you to those who have already chipped in!







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