The city is taking a step toward urban development with a plan to repurpose surface parking lots that are becoming an eyesore in London's core.

There are about 80 commercial surface parking lots in the downtown, including along Richmond Street. Some are temporary lots — often repetitively renewed every three years.

"The best downtowns are noted for their connected building fabric, not for their sprinkling of parking lots through the building fabric," said Jim Yanchula, city manager of urban regeneration.

The city's planning and environment committee approved a report looking to phase out temporary surface parking lots in the downtown core. The recommendation is consistent with a proposed overall city parking strategy.

The renewal of temporary lots could prevent the properties from being from developed for years. Often times, owners pay low operating costs, which could act as a disincentive to develop the land.

Richmond Street sign London Ontario

A street sign for Richmond Street in London, Ontario (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Yanchula said some of those properties could be used to develop residential tower buildings, which could also incorporate under and above-ground parking lots — adding more vibrancy to the downtown streetscape.

"Incorporating parking within a building is a way of providing for parking and closing up some of the dismemberment of the streetscapes that parking lots present," said Yanchula.

"A pedestrian could be walking along and all of a sudden there's nothing else to look at instead of parked cars so [the pedestrian] tends to decide not to walk any further even if there might be something beyond the parking lots because it's not very engaging."

City parking strategy

The downtown parking strategy identified many underutilized surface parking lots that were possible development sites, with about 25 per cent of the core reserved for parking purposes.

Phasing out temporary parking lots won't be an issue for people using them because the core has more than 9,800 current parking spaces for public use. City staff said Monday the parking supply in the core is adequate for Londoners.

However, future developments could see up to 300 new parking spots implemented to address expansion. The parking strategy is for city staff to work closely with private developers to integrate public parking in new developments within the next 20 years in several downtown areas.

A business case is to be brought forward in the 2020-2024 multi-year budget for the consideration of new councillors.

Some downtown surface parking lots:

  • On the south side of York Street across from the Convention Centre
  • On the north side of York Street across from the VIA train station
  • At the northwest corner of King and Clarence Streets