Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ogden Street Multi-Storey Car Park


The first multi-storey car park built outside of Brisbane opened in Townsville in December 1976.  Built at a cost of $3.6 million, the ten-storey car park could accommodate more than 1,000 vehicles and was the first of its kind to be built by a local government authority in Queensland.
Ogden Street Multi-Storey Carpark, nearing completion, September 1976.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by CityLibraries Local History Collection.

The Townsville City Council built the car park through the State Government Insurance Office (SGIO) on a 50-year lease agreement, in order to alleviate parking shortages in the central business district, and to plan for projected growth in the city.

The SGIO’s adjacent building (the now iconic “Sugar Shaker”) was connected to the multi-storey car park by an elevated walkway, and 200 parking spaces on the lower levels of the car park were reserved for the SGIO building’s customers.
Construction of the walkway between the multi-storey carpark and the Hotel Townsville, November 1976.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

On weekdays, parking fees were set at 30 cents per hour for the first two hours, and 25 cents per hour after that.  On Saturday mornings, a flat fee of 60 cents applied, for any period of time, up until the car park’s closure at 1pm.

The potential complexity of negotiating the car park, with its upward ramps and downward spirals, prompted the Townsville Daily Bulletin to warn female drivers of the possible hazards that might be encountered at the new car park.

“Oh girls, you’ll need to practise your hill starts before you think about coming into town to use the new SGIO car park,” the unnamed, female writer warned.

“Those of you who have used parking stations like this in a city like Sydney, for instance, shouldn’t have too many problems, for you’re geared to rethink your driving habits once you get up the ramp.”

“But if you’re a Townsville girl and you’ve never driven in the big city rat race, you might do better to do a ‘reccy’ on foot before you accept the council’s invitation to park for nothing.”

In an effort to entice drivers to use the new car park, council offered free parking for three days in the first week of operation, during which time about 500 vehicles parked there each day.  On the first day of paid parking, that number dropped to about 400.

A week after the car park opened, the Bulletin reported that the Mayor, Alderman Perc Tucker, was pleased that the facility had been more widely accepted than critics had believed it would be.  Even concerns that “lady drivers” would avoid the car park had turned out to be unfounded, and “at least 50 per cent of parkers so far were women”.

But it was feared the multi-storey car park might become a “white elephant”, with running costs far outweighing takings.  Council’s leasing and operating costs were expected to be about $900 per day, and after only a couple of months, the car park was only taking in $200 a day in parking fees.

Alderman Delma Benson argued that despite public criticism about the car park’s huge size, it was roughly in line with the recommendations of the 1966 Townsville Transportation Study.  That study had forecast Townsville’s inner city parking needs as two car parks, each of four to six storeys.


“Perhaps it is a few storeys too big, perhaps it is a few years too soon.  But it is built and the people of the future will appreciate it,” Alderman Benson said.

Author's note:  The multi-storey car park in Ogden Street is now Metro Quays, a 92-unit residential development, with commercial tenants on the ground floor.
Metro Quays, Ogden Street, Townsville.

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