History of Manly Parking and Commercial Special Levy

Words | Drew Johnson | Manly Chamber of Commerce President

It is fair to say that the Chamber shared some of the initial concerns about the financial aspects of demolishing Whistler Street car park and the construction of a new car park under Manly Oval.  Althogh following the earlier KPMG review of the costs/financials, and the subsequent successful tender process, we are now fully supportive of the Proposal.  

The Manly 2015 Plan is a very important upgrade to the infrastructure in the Manly CBD, with the improved pedestrian areas, and reduced traffic in the centre (by locating our main car park on the ring road).  The existing Whistler Street car park would require many millions of dollars just to bring it up to current fire safety and access codes, and we would still be left with an ugly structure, with small car spaces, very low clearances and very narrow tight ramps (and much reduced parking numbers).   It would be very difficult to mount an argument that it should be retained, long term, as one of our major car parks.

The Manly Chamber of Commerce is now keen to ensure the community understands the history of our “voluntary” Parking Levy, and its role in funding the parking facilities we now have in Manly.  The same Levy, which is now known as the Special Levy, has also been used to fund a portion of the Oceanfront Promenade improvements, and all of the recent Corso up-grade. 

History of Manly CBD Parking Levy and current Special Levy:

This levy commenced, in the early 1960’s, when the local commercial ratepayers and businesses approached Manly Council, to establish a fund to acquire land for additional parking in the CBD.   It was a voluntary levy, and was initially used to acquire land in Wentworth Street, Central Avenue and Short Street.  These levy funds, combined with Parking Contributions received from Developers, were used to help fund the construction of the Whistler Street car park.   Subsequently, all these sites were developed and public car parks were included in the new developments (i.e.  Manly National Building, Pacific Waves and the Peninsular Development). Manly Council also received over $17million from the developers of the Peninsular project.

Manly is very fortunate that our commercial ratepayers (and former Councillors), had the foresight to initiate the voluntary levy used to acquire these sites that now provide almost 1,100 car spaces.  Comparable locations such as Bondi and Cronulla did not benefit from the same forward thinking commercial businesses/owners, and now suffer major parking problems.

As mentioned, the Parking Levy was changed about 18 years ago to a “Corso and Oceanfront Improvement Levy” and is now known as the Commercial Special Levy.  This change was made at the time by Mayor Sue Sacker, who said that we cannot afford to acquire more land for parking, or build more parking, and changed the nature of the Levy, without any real consultation with the ratepayers who were paying the Levy (which was as we point out a “voluntary” levy).

The Levy now raises over $1million per annum, and was increased 11 years ago to allow Council to fund The Corso upgrade.  At that time the Chamber was seeking an upgrade of The Corso, the state of which was a complete embarrassment to the local business community (and local residents).   Council advised they had no funds for the up-grade, and we were asked by General Manager, Henry Wong, whether we would support a doubling of the Levy for 10 years to fund the Upgrade.  The Manly Chamber consulted with our members and with the majority supporting a doubling of the Levy, we wrote a letter acknowledging this support, for Council to seek approval to the increase from the Minister for Local Government.   The agreed 10 year period for the “doubled “ Levy expired in June 2015, and we believe Council should now revert to the original Levy.  

The public car parks have now become a major revenue source for Manly Council, and over the years we have had to “fight” to retain the 2-hour free parking provided within the car parks.  The public car parks are a very important part of our business infrastructure, and Councils ramping up of the parking fees after the 2-hour free period, in recent years, is of concern to local businesses (who have to compete with Warringah Mall and Stockland Balgowlah with cheaper and more plentiful parking).

As a result of this “Levy” history, we believe the local business community has a very real equity stake in the CBD public car parks.   The on-going management and operation of the car parks is of vital concern to all CBD owners and operators.  We are particularly concerned that the car parks will continue to be managed with the interest of local businesses (and our residents/customers).

In Summary:

The Chamber strongly supports the Manly 2015 Plan, and in particular the need to replace the very poorly designed, ugly, and now obsolete Whistler Street Car Park.   The suggestion by the Planners involved in the Manly 2015 Plan, that Council look at relocating this parking under the Manly Oval, now has the Chambers full support.   Modern CBD traffic planning principles also support the positioning of major public car parks on the roads - leading into major commercial and tourist centres, or on the ring roads, to avoid vehicular congestion in the pedestrian friendly areas.   

The 2015 Plan, with new pedestrian areas and a modern 500+ space car park under the oval, will revitalise the western section of the CBD.     The new car park, even with the 2-hour free parking, will generate very significant revenue for Council over the next 20-30 years.   The fact that the new car park will be paid for by the sale of a 99 years lease over the “triangular” site in Whistler Street and Market Lane, is a very satisfactory outcome in our view.

The Chamber sees the removal of the “obsolete” Whistler Street car park, and redevelopment of that location, as a very important part of the Manly 2015 Plan.   The development proposed by the Built & Athas Holdings appear to be very attractive, including some very worthwhile community assets.   

We urge the Manly community to show their support of this project, by sending letters of support to:

Northern Beaches Council
REF: DA116/2016
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. OR
PO Box 82

We thank you for your willingness to support a better future for Manly.

The Chamber's position on Manly 2015 oval carpark

Words | Mark Stanley | Manly Chamber of Commerce President

Manly Council are soon due to vote on whether the Manly 2015 oval carpark construction will proceed to the tendering phase to establish accurate costs analysis.

It is the view of the Manly Chamber of Commerce that the plan is at risk of being sabotaged by a few people with a political agenda who have waged war on it; inaccurately representing what it offers Manly, how much it will cost and what the business and greater community thinks about it.

As an example, one of these individuals has had 11 letters published in the Manly Daily since November 2014, attacking Manly 2015 and anyone who supports it. Only one side of this story is being told and opposition to Manly 2015 is over-represented.

The Manly Chamber of Commerce’s core purpose is to identify and encourage ideas that will benefit Manly, its businesses and residents. We have no political alliances.

We have spent some five years consulting with Manly Council on this plan and its management, including requests for revisions and improvements.

We firmly believe that Manly 2015 provides a vision for the next 50 years in Manly and we have not blindly thrown our support behind this project.

To help explain our position, we present you with the following facts:


Financially Sound:

Manly Oval Carpark 2015 Whistler St

Whistler St Carpark Manly 2015

Renowned global consulting firm, KPMG has already determined that the Manly Oval carpark is financially viable. Furthermore, Council has estimated that the oval carpark can be funded largely through the demolition and lease of the currently non-compliant Whistler Street car park and the out-of-pocket expense will be significantly less than the $10 million cost of renovating Whistler St 

to partially fix basic compliance issues.

Redevelop Whistler Street: Whistler Street carpark is currently non-compliant because of fire safety issues, narrow parking bays, low ceiling height and a lack of wheelchair access. Fixing all but the ceiling height issue will result in around 130 lost car spaces and cost around $10 million, after which it will still be incompliant with the low ceiling height!

The cost of partially fixing Whistler Street will probably cost a similar amount as building a brand new carpark under Manly oval – after the Whistler Street lease revenue is offset.

Anyone saying Manly 2015 will cause massive debt is either grossly misinformed or has another agenda. However the only way to confirm KPMG’s assessment is to go to tender and get accurate costs so an informed decision can be made.


Benefit to Manly:

Manly Carpark Whistler St

The whole purpose of this plan is to improve Manly for everyone – residents, businesses and visitors. We live and work in Manly. We love Manly. We want the best for Manly.

Parking & Traffic: Summer gets crowded in our beloved town and the oval carpark will provide an extra 185 parking spots – with a construction design providing the option to scale up in the future as required.

While we will lose some on-street parking spaces as part of Manly 2015, our net gain is 185 spots. That said, there is probably merit in reviewing this part of the plan with the Council to see if more on-street parking can be maintained.

However the oval carpark will also take traffic off the roads for locals, funnelling visitors into a central location.

Community: One of the greatest things about living and working in Manly is the community feel. Manly 2015 fosters that community. It will bring people together;  pedestrianising the streets will enhance Manly’s cosmopolitan identity and improve the Manly experience for everyone.


Site Suitability:

Council has engaged world class flooding, geo-technical and engineering experts to ensure the oval is a suitable location. None see it as being a problem.

The Manly Chamber of Commerce has also deeply analysed the plan, assessed its finances and potential impact on the business and greater community. We are confident it will do great things for Manly.


Public Sentiment:

Manly businesses and residents are still largely unaware of the details surrounding Manly 2015 and how the project will affect them. 

It is fair to say that Manly Council initially mishandled the communication in the early stages and they wrongly assumed the project would have universal support.

This has enabled the spread of inaccurate information around parking numbers and costs, as well as assertions the project is widely unsupported. A recent survey conducted by the small group of naysayers was part of that misinformation and asked leading questions without providing the facts.

Overwhelmingly Supported: Research by Council and the Chamber has found Manly 2015 is overwhelmingly supported among the business and greater community.

-          300-plus face to face interviews and receipt of 69 written comments, as well as general polling and community consultation has all been “extremely positive.”

-          A Manly 2015 explainer video (see also below) on the Council YouTube page has received 40 “likes” and only two “un-likes” from 8546 views.  

-          The same video presented on the Manly Facebook page was viewed by 12,316 people, received 91 interactions and only two negative comments.

We are not saying there is unanimous support for the project but we are saying there is much greater support than what has been conveyed. We have also found that most negativity stems from the initial inconvenience of the construction rather than the project itself.

Manly Chamber of Commerce will endeavour to support any businesses facing inconvenience through the construction phase. Indeed, we are currently working on a plan to support those facing a foot traffic downturn as a result of the Sydney Road upgrade.

Of course, any large scale project will have detractors. Closing The Corso to vehicles in 1979 also saw opposition groups. This is now regarded as universally successful.


We need your help!

As the President of the Chamber and having been heavily involved in this project, it is my position that Manly 2015 will benefit all of Manly, makes financial sense and would be largely supported by the community if they knew the facts about this project instead of the misinformation being spread by its malevolent detractors. 

It would be a real shame to have the project shut down before it was even fully assessed because of a few people making a lot of noise

We need your help to ensure the appropriate steps are taken to ensure Manly 2015 is not shut down before it is even fully assessed.

If you have an opinion on Manly 2015, please write to Manly Councillors first and foremost (they are voting on it soon and its future is in their hands!), as well as the Manly Daily and Mike Baird.

The next Council meeting is to be held Tuesday 6 October, 2015.

Ensure your voice is heard!

Manly Councillor Contacts:

Cr Jean Hay: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Barbara Aird: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Candy Binghan: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Hugh Burns: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Cathy Griffin: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr James Griffin: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Adele Heasman: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Alan Lesurf: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cr Steve Pickering (Deputy Mayor): This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact Mike Baird: www.nsw.gov.au/your-government/contact-premier-new-south-wales

Write to the Manly DailyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Contact Details

Address : PO Box 104, Manly NSW 1655

Telephone : 0403 997 754

Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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