More parking is needed in Uptown Waterloo, especially north of Erb Street, but it's unlikely to come in the form of a massive parking garage, says Ward 7 Coun. Melissa Durrell.
"Land in uptown is very expensive, in fact I'd say it's precious," said Durrell in an interview Tuesday on The Morning Edition.
"I believe – and I can't speak for the rest of council – that the day of a 400-car parking structure is long gone and now we need to look at better uses for space."
Durrell's comments are in response to Patti Brooks, the executive director of the Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area, who said she wanted to see a 200-car parking structure north of Erb in an interview on The Morning Edition Monday.
However, Durrell admits there's an "imbalance" when it comes to available parking in Uptown.
"We have 3,500 parking spots in Uptown Waterloo, in the BIA area, but 71 per cent of them are south of Erb," she said.
"We have a great growing culinary culture, we have a movie theatre in our core, which very few cities can brag about, and so we need to make sure people can still drive to those places and park and we don't have any spaces really right now."
The problem is, where to put those parking spaces, if a parking structure is ruled out.
"Parking underground is really difficult in Uptown Waterloo," said Durrell.
"We have a really high water table, which has been great for making Waterloo a really green place, however it's really difficult to dig down."
Durrell says the city is starting to negotiate to buy for land north of Erb, and hopes it will be available soon. Council had already voted on Jan. 20 to acquire land to build 50 parking spots.
"We're also saying to people who own, landowners north of Erb we're willing to partner with you and I see that as our strategy going forward."
But Durrell thinks adding more parking isn't at odds with the city's vision to make Uptown Waterloo more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.
"We have to think in short terms and then we have to think in long term. Many of the surface parking lots south of Erb will be developments in the next five, ten years. So there won't be surface parking lots there. The future is to be working with land owners," she said.
"As we add more and more people to uptown Waterloo, in the last 5 to 6 years we've added new 1500 residential units," said Durrell, adding that a further 800 people will be moving into the core in the short-term future.