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Jason Farr on the 'overwrought map of asphalt' 1:18

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Brad Clark on downtown parking 1:59

Downtown Hamilton is so covered in surface parking lots that it’s an “overwrought map of asphalt,” one councillor says. So now the city is looking at giving up one of its lots to a developer.

Valuable downtown real estate is covered in low-density surface parking lots, said Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2. In September, city staff will report back on turning one of the city-owned lots into a development.

Downtown parking by the numbers

11:30 a.m.- The peak time for parking downtown.

13,109 - Available parking spots downtown in 2012

12,792 - Available spots downtown in 2005

8,909 -  Maximum number of cars parked downtown at one time in 2012

9,756 - Maximum number of cars parked downtown at one time in 2005

600 - The number of people on a waiting list for monthly parking in downtown municipal lots

$15 - Maximum daily rate for parking downtown

$4 - Minimum daily rate for parking downtown

$50 - the cheapest cost of  a monthly parking pass downtown

What kind of development, and on which lot, will be addressed in the report. But ideally, it will provide jobs and public parking, Farr said.

"It’s been an issue for a long time," he said of downtown's large surface lots. He'd like to see a development that includes multi-level parking, but includes a building with other uses. 

"It would be a short-term pain because the development would take the parking that exists away, but it would contemplate returning that parking and then some, which is a lot more palatable than what we have now when you look at the overhead map."

Staff will examine the possibility of working with local BIAs and other stakeholders to find a developer for the lot. The parking lot at Hughson and Barton would be a good candidate, said Marty Hazell, the city's head of bylaw. 

But downtown does have a shortage of parking, Hazell said, and that's "definitely a concern. There are very few underutilized lots downtown." But it would work if it was a good proposal, he said. 

There are currently 13,109 public parking spaces in the area bordered by Cannon Street to the north, Queen Street to the west, Wellington Street to the east and Hunter Street to the south.

Of those spaces, 2,999 are in municipal garages/lots, 5,024 are in privately owned public garages/lots, 3,948 are in privately owned private garages/lots and 1,138 are on-street spaces.

Coun. Brad Clark was among the councillors unsure of the idea. Downtown property has gone up in value and developers are building on their own, he said. He doesn’t want the city to sell itself short by giving up valuable property below its market value. 

Also, as more developers choose downtown Hamilton, he said, the city will need parking lots to accommodate the traffic.

"As we intensify, as we bring in more commercial development to the downtown, people are driving," he said. "I know some folks would prefer they take transit, but they’re driving into town."

"We need those parking lots. They’re not full all the time, but when we need them, we have to have them."

The city put out a call for interest this month for a private developer interested in building a parking garage downtown.