The city has rejected putting tax dollars into new parking garages downtown, but is putting out a call for any private investors who want to build one.

The planning committee heard Tuesday that downtown will have a shortage of parking by 2022. But councillors didn’t buy that it was enough of an issue to put tax dollars behind it.

Some called it "puzzling" that it would be asked to put money into new parking structures when parking demand had declined 10 per cent since 2005.

'I see these as money pits from a municipal perspective' - Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins

Instead, they agreed to put out a request for interest in case any private operators want to build one.

A report from consultant MMM Group recommended two parking garages — one at King and Bay and one at John and King William, both costing as much as $23 million for an above-grade garage and $29 million for below grade. It would also cost $520,300 per year to operate an above-ground garage and $552-500 for below grade.

No sign of interest

But councillors said if the need was valid, the private sector could express interest in building one.

“I see these as money pits from a municipal perspective,” said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5.  “When was the last time the private sector built a parking garage downtown?

“If I look at where to invest in the core, parking downtown wouldn’t make the top 10. It doesn’t even make the top 100.”

The report predicts that growing development will displace 732 parking spots downtown by 2017, but that the demand for parking will increase by 357 spaces.

By 2022, the report says, there could be 1,066 parking spaces lost, while the demand would increase by 714 spaces.

Derek Dalgleish from MMM Group says there’s sufficient area at Bay and King and John and King William. Bay and King could incorporate ground-level retail, he said, and should have at least 500 additional parking spaces by 2017.

At King William and John, he said, the city could build 443 spaces by 2022.

On every corner

Councillors were skeptical that there was a need for more parking in downtown Hamilton, where parking lots are “almost like Tim Horton’s,” Collins said. “There’s one on every corner.”

 The consultants couldn’t pinpoint the reasons for the 10-per cent reduction in demand since 2005.

With that in mind, Collins said, “it’s puzzling to read the report and to see that recommendation flow through."

Dalgleish admitted that Hamilton had a plethora of small parking lots around the downtown, more than he’s seen in other cities of a similar size.

The city’s two downtown parking garages — on York Boulevard and at the Hamilton Convention Centre — are money makers. But staff said it took about 20 years before the York Boulevard parkade turned a profit for the city.

Parking statistics:

  • Municipal parking spaces/garages downtown: 2,999 (3,108 in 2005)
  • Privately owned public parking lots/garages: 5,024 (4,719 in 2005)
  • Privately operated private parking lots/garages: 3,948 (4,016 in 2005)
  • Metred on-street parking: 685 (648)
  • Other on-street parking: 453 (301)

Total parking downtown: 13,109 (12,792)