By Gemma Handy
The woes of motorists who suffer the frequent headache of trying to find parking spaces in the city don’t look set to be alleviated any time soon.
Days after government announced it was taking action on thousands of unpaid parking fines, it admitted that work on the long-awaited Sunshine Hub car park might not restart until next year.
Government has made frequent promises to get the multi-storey facility in operation to ease the pressure on the throngs of people who drive into St John’s for work, leisure or shopping.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst blamed the delays of recent years on the Covid pandemic.
In January 2020, work was tipped to begin on the car park imminently. Later that month, Information Minister Melford Nicholas attributed a hold-up to the contractor’s lack of liability insurance.
A perimeter fence was erected at the property in February that year but little else was done.
Three months later, Nicholas said tenders would be invited within weeks and the car park could be functioning within months.
In May last year, government again pledged efforts to complete the 250-space parking lot would start “in the not too distant future”.
However, another 10 months have passed with no progress, to the frustration of many local residents.
“Given the demands made on the Treasury and the supply of revenues coming in, it may be difficult if not impossible to give you a precise date for starting,” Hurst told Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
“Hopefully it will be in 2023 but if not it might be 2024.”
The car park’s construction began under the United Progressive Party (UPP) administration in 2005 but was halted in 2010 due to financial issues.
Hurst hinted that proceeds from the sale of Russian-owned superyacht Alfa Nero could be used to finish the job. The 267ft vessel, believed to be owned by sanctioned billionaire Andrey Guryev and left abandoned in Falmouth Harbour for more than a year, is set to be sold to the highest bidder
“Maybe some of the proceeds realised from the sale of the Alfa Nero might go towards making the car park a useful place once the monies are received,” Hurst said.
He added that the top floor of the facility remains on track to be turned into office space and become a permanent home for state media, ABS. Staff at the public broadcaster have long decried the dilapidated condition of their current Friars Hill Road premises.
With regards to parking, there was some good news recently for differently abled residents who have been assured they will soon benefit from specially designated spaces in several city streets.
Earlier this month, government said it planned to reverse a lack of enforcement on outstanding parking fines. New Transport Minister Charles Fernandez revealed that the value of the unpaid penalties amounted to EC$600,000 – around 4,000 tickets.