More small restaurants may be able to find a home on some of Edmonton's most vibrant streets if council approves a pilot to ease parking requirements for businesses in those areas.

Council is considering reducing the number of parking spots restaurants and bars need to open on 124th Street, Whyte Avenue or part of Jasper Avenue.

As it stands, a typical-sized restaurant considering setting up shop on Whyte Avenue would need to find 28 parking spots.

"There's just physically no way to meet that requirement," said Murray Davison, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association.

Davison said the requirements are a major obstacle for new businesses looking to move to the area. City data shows that special permission to have fewer parking spots had to be granted in 74 per cent of all food and drink-related development applications on Edmonton's main entertainment strip.

Davison said the current bylaw does not account for the fact that many people don`t use vehicles as their main way to get around, particularly when visiting places like Whyte Avenue.

The pilot would reduce the number of spots required on its three main streets from:

  • 50 to eight spaces on 124th Street
  • 24 to three spaces on Jasper Avenue near Oliver
  • 28 to three spaces on Whyte Avenue

The current parking requirements in Edmonton are much higher than other Canadian cities, according to a city report.

Coun. Ben Henderson said there's still plenty of parking in the areas that could be affected by the pilot. But, he said, the city has to look beyond accommodating cars.

"The success of a 124th Street or a Whyte Avenue is not about your ability to park," he said.  "It's about your ability to walk around, to go from shop to shop."

He said the reduction signals that the city is moving away from suburban-style developments, and embracing old-style main streets.

"Ultimately we know we can't build the kind of infrastructure where everybody can drive and park wherever they want to go. It's just not possible," he said.

If approved, the city will monitor the development permits in the area to make sure pilot is having the desired effect.

Council will debate the pilot on Tuesday. Further plans to improve the city's main streets will be discussed in March.

Meanwhile, Davison said more work still has to be done before parking issues in Old Strathcona are resolved.

He's hopes the city takes steps to improve residential parking and access to public transportation and LRT.