Can you live downtown without a car? Condo buyers say no

It’s already a parking battle around a new condo tower in Durand. Now with another tower on the way and a third 11-storey tower planned, nearby residents worry it’s going to get even worse.

Parking wars in Durand and it might be about to get worse

As of last year, new apartment buildings in Durand must have 0.8 parking spaces per unit, lower than the previous one-to-one. That's causing problems at the three-building City Square development, one resident says. People are parking in the visitors' lot, and on nearby lawns.

It’s already a parking battle around a new condo tower in Durand. Now with another tower on the way and a third 11-storey tower planned, nearby residents worry it’s going to get even worse.

Some residents of 90 Charlton Ave. W., the first tower in the $70-million, three-building City Square condo development, are already paying three figures to park on nearby lawns, and squeezing illegally onto side streets, some say. Residents are chasing their neighbours out of visitor lots, and renting out their own spaces for hundreds of dollars a month.

Now the city has approved a third tower in the development at 85 Robinson, which some worry will only add to the parking struggle.

The first two buildings from New Horizon Development Group have the city standard — 0.8 parking spaces per condo unit. But it’s not enough, said Barb Henderson. She moved into the first tower — a nine-storey, 76-unit building — last June.

“Some are paying $100, $120 a month for parking,” she said. “Some are paying $200 a month to people in our building who own the spot and aren’t putting their car there.”

The first phase of the City Square development opened last summer. Its 11-storey second phase is in the works.

The city’s planning committee granted New Horizon a zoning bylaw amendment Tuesday for the third phase, which contains plans for 17 stories, down from 11 stories after community outcry. City council will ratify the vote on Wednesday.

The three phases have 280 units and only 260 parking spaces. To alleviate parking demand, the third phase will have a one-to-one ratio, and 14 spaces for overflow parking from the previous phases, developer Jeff Paikin says.

'Chasing residents' out of the visitors lot

But Henderson worries that’s still not enough.

Many residents in the first phase seemed to buy condos not realizing that there wasn’t enough parking, she said. And residents of multi-unit buildings aren’t eligible for permits to park on the street.

The third building will have a ratio of one spot per unit, plus 14 spaces for overflow from the two previous buildings, Paikin said. And New Horizon has sold 28 units in the third tower to people who don’t have parking spots. That should address the need.

Henderson isn’t so sure.

“We’re chasing our own residents out of our visitor parking all the time,” she said. “I could identify them by licence number. I can show you where our residents are parking.”

Lower parking standard is new

The city standard used to be one parking space per unit for developments, said Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2. That changed with the new Urban Hamilton Official Plan, which took effect last August.

The lower parking standard is designed to encourage more downtown residents to walk and bicycle rather than depend on cars, Farr said.

“We’re trying to build a community where it’s multi-modal,” he said. “In downtown, we want to promote walking. We want to promote transit. More and more people, in the younger demographic particularly, aren’t even interested in owning cars.”

The important thing, Farr said, is that people buying the condos understand that parking is limited, and that they can’t park on the street.

“We have to be sure it’s in the lease so that folks buying are aware that parking is at a premium.”

When buying, ask about parking

Parking is always an issue in Durand, Farr said. The neighbourhood is home to apartment buildings, town houses and single-family residences where a city bylaw dictates that half the front yard must be green.

When buying a home, Farr said, parking “should be one of the top five questions you ask.”

Not everyone has done that, Henderson told councillors. With just one building completed, “we have more than one sign up saying ‘we need parking,’” she said.

“I know of five people in 90 Charlton who have no parking and have more than one car.”

The Durand Neighbourhood Association has concerns about the 11-storey third tower, president Janice Brown told the planning committee. It wants the city to abide by the original agreement between the association, the city and the property owner that called for four-storey townhouses on the property.

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