Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The complicated calculus of parking in London Ontario

Parking woes in crumbling downtown London? Council votes to build an overpass in the east end of the city and hire a consultant instead of building a parking lot downtown.

The city is preparing to hire a consultant to study London's parking woes in the core area.

That includes making a case for a 500- to 1,000-stall parking garage that could ease what some say is a critical shortage of long-term parking spaces.

There are about 13,000 parking spaces downtown and 25,000 employees, according to MainStreet London. Business owners often complain their staff have nowhere to park.

A working group of city council members and staff has met twice over the last month.

A request for proposals from consultants is being prepared and is expected to be issued in the coming weeks, with a final report expected in the fall at a cost of up to $30,000.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, who chairs the working group, said he's convinced there's a need. "We want to make sure we get it right and that it's a smart investment."
Here's a breakdown of what Londoners are getting for their $30,000:
The consultant will examine:

- Availability of day and night parking in specific areas of the core;

- Whether attraction of new business to the core is affected by the amount of parking;

- The best locations for a new parking facility based on the need and number of stalls.

- Prepare a business case for a 500- to 1,000-stall parking garage, the costs to build and operate it and the investment return it would give the city.
Once again, I wonder what council and existing city staff are getting paid to do? Apparently, it is to hire consultants and eat free food. I have an idea, I offer my advice for free, and it only took me one minute to come up with it: demolish the JLC, along with city hall to make room for more parking lots.

Council's dithering on the issue has sparked the ire of Shmuel Farhi, one of the biggest developers in the city who also happens to own a lot of valuable property in the downtown core. Farhi is threatening to move out or even *gasp* destroy heritage buildings:
"What else do we need to do to convince city council of the need for parking? Why waste the taxpayers' money on a study?" Farhi said.

Farhi owns 1.2 million square feet of space in the core, but has only 500 parking spaces for tenants, about 10 per cent of the spaces required to lease the space.

Almost a year ago, Farhi asked the city to rent him 40 to 45 spaces at a city lot on Queens Avenue between Clarence and Richmond streets.

Farhi said he needs the reserved spaces to lease nearby office space. But the city has so far resisted, arguing there are other landlords in need of parking.

"I don't want the spaces for free and I'm all for giving spaces to other people," Farhi said. "I'll pay full market value so I can bring more people to the downtown."

[..] Farhi has said if more parking spaces aren't created soon, he'll have no choice but to board up or demolish heritage buildings.