Shopping blues: Park your car if you can

Shopping blues: Park your car if you can


Within a couple of years the federal capital’s markets will resemble the famous bazaars of neighbouring Rawalpindi city — where most of the buyers spend a significant time finding space to park their vehicles.

Now there are more buyers and to cater their needs new shopping centres are fast emerging in markets developed decades ago. However, instead of planning for a greater number of car parks, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is doing the opposite.

In a major development, the CDA is weighing a proposal to abolish a mandatory law for providing parking facility in basements of commercial plazas.

Under the revised planning parameters for commercial plots, the authority will allow commercialisation of basements. Under the current law, a basement in every shopping centre is reserved for car parking, although it has not been properly enforced to date.

Now, the planning wing has submitted a set of revised parameters for commercial plots in different markets to the CDA board for approval. Apparently, the move is aimed at earning more revenue from sale of commercial plots in future.

“The summary will be presented before the next board meeting for approval,” said a senior official of the wing, who requested not to be named. To cover up the controversial move, the planning wing officers have introduced a new terminology, lower ground instead of basement.

The lower ground floor is common in commercial plazas in Rawalpindi. According to the new planning parameters, the ground floor will be built five feet above the ground, while the lower ground will be five feet below it.

In 2008, according to a CDA board decision, which is currently under practice, the covered area of some commercial plots can be extended up to five times the size of the plot but such extension is subject to the provision of parking facility in the basement.

However, if the CDA approves the summary, commercial centre owners will not be obliged to bother about developing a parking facility.

“It has been a long-standing demand of the investors who buy commercial land in Islamabad.

In the past, investors used to protest the CDA’s planning parameters for commercial plots. Recently, they also presented a set of similar demands to CDA’s auction committee,” said an official of estate management wing.

In 2004 the CDA board had exempted old commercial buildings mainly in Blue Area from the rule, he stated.

However, later citing the exemptions, a precedent was set for other buildings and CDA allowed commercialisation of basements in newly-established buildings as well. These days, he said, it’s not difficult to get permission to convert basements into commercial floors.

CDA Member Planning and Design Waseem Ahmad Khan acknowledged the fact that  car parks in city markets are getting smaller.

“Developing car parking in basements in small commercial plazas is not viable. And to resolve that problem, CDA will need to construct parking plazas in markets to accommodate a greater number of cars in the future.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2014.