Park & Ride Plaza inaugurated amidst controversy

LAHORE: In the shadow of controversies, 11-flour Park & Ride Plaza was opened at Main Boulevard, Gulberg near Liberty roundabout adjacent to United Christian Hospital on Wednesday.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif inaugurated the plaza with publicity blitz but failed to fulfill his commitment to construct other parking plazas at 9 places including Nila Gumbad, Sheranwala, Shadman, Moon Market and Macleod Road. First controversy started when Park & Ride Plaza was preferred to parking plaza at Nila Gumbad which was first decided to be built on the demand of traders of the Mall and Anarkali, a senior official of TEPA told Pakistan Today.

Plaza plan had to be revised after it was delayed due to slow work pace, and instead CM took a stern action and bettered to increase the cost from Rs 499.96 million to Rs 677.47. As per plan it had to accommodate 350 vehicles but later the parking capacity was compromised to 308. “Park & Ride Plaza missed the deadline twice. First date was in July and second in October but finally it was constructed and opened on December 22,” said an official of MASKON company which was awarded to construct the plaza by TEPA in 2009.

Shoaib Jahanzaib, an expert in Town Planning said that Park & Ride Plaza, on 3.17 kanal land, at already congested Liberty roundabout, will turn the interception into a bottleneck for traffic. He said that area (inside and outside) of the liberty market was already packed and parking plaza will add in saturation which will be irking to customers. Humayun Rashid, a trader at Liberty Market, said that traders had recommended the government to develop a parking plaza behind Liberty Market but suggestion was thrown in the dustbin.

Former TEPA official and urban planner said government needed to decongest the busiest shopping market to facilitate the people. “In the presence of small-scale parking lots for buildings in the area and metered parking lot was enough to meet parking needs and construction of Park & Ride Plaza was not understandable”, he said.
Senior official in Communication and Works Department said that such a high-rise structure near one of the city’s busiest roundabouts was unwise. He said that Lahore was a historic city older than Rome, Paris, Athens and London, yet the government was destroying it for urban development. He said unplanned urban development was meant for commercialization, encroachments and the government’s self-interest.

Meanwhile controversy gripped the Park & Ride Plaza was regarding LDA award of contract to Colliers International for the sale or auction of the Park & Ride plaza on a commission despite the fact government could not hire the services of any company or agent on a commission basis for the sale of any public asset. CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif lauded the performance of LDA DG Umer Rasool and tasked him to initiate construction of such plazas in Anarkali and Barkat Market.

LDA DG Umer Rasool said that work will be started on a fast track. He said that as many as 80 shops have also been built in the basement, ground and first floors of this plaza along with two restaurants on the first floor as well as the roof top of the structure. “Safety and security of the people has been ensured in this structure.

The design includes open stairwells and ramps, security devices such as road blockers, car scanners, CCTV, Public Address System, fire alarm and fire fighting, audio and emergency buttons that call into the booth or local police station, elimination of potential hiding places, such as under open stairs has also been arranged. Handicap accessibility has been facilitated, with vehicles close to stair and elevator cores having a direct path to key movement patterns of the garage,” he added.
The Lahore Development Authority has approved the marketing plan for selling out 80 shops and two restaurants in this plaza. All these properties will be sold through open auction and services of Collier International have been acquired for this purpose. The firm will launch an extensive media campaign for this purpose and the auction proceedings will be telecasted live. – Pakistantoday