Parking crunch? Tivoli hopes to stack cars

The company behind the Tivoli condo project is proposing the city's first mechanized car stacker to solve the development’s future parking problems.
Developers of the Tivoli Theatre project hope to use a car stacker, such as this one in Manhattan, to deal with a parking shortage in the area. (Shutterstock)

The company behind the Tivoli condo project is proposing the city's first mechanized car stacker to solve the development’s future parking problems.

The developers are proposing a 22-storey development at the old Tivoli Theatre, on James Street North, which could see as many as 65 condos in addition to commercial space and the restored theatre. But with more developments happening in the James North area, parking is increasingly an issue.

Parking is an issue throughout our core. When you’re adding to densities, you’re adding to that issue.- Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr

Diamante Holdings hopes to use an automated parking stacker. Such machines are common in New York and Toronto, but they’ve never come to Hamilton.

The devices increase parking capacity of a lot by automatically lifting a car to a slot in a multi-level storage structure, where cars are stored more closely together, and then retrieving the car when the driver wants to use it again.

The company hopes to include an indoor one at the Tivoli site, which would fit the maximum amount of cars in the small space, said Berardo Diamante.

“As developments downtown increase, (car stackers) are going to come up more and more,” he said. “To have enough parking to get the site going, it’s just too tight otherwise.”

Parking, he said, is “something that can completely prevent things from being built.”

City staff have concerns. A memorandum from the city’s parking technologist to planning staff poses the following questions:

  • How long does it take for a car to be lowered to the ground? What about peak times when everyone wants to leave at once? How long will it take?
  • How do repair vehicles get in to do maintenance on the cars?
  • What happens if the stacking system breaks? How do people get their cars out?

Diamante first encountered a car stacker when he lived at Queen and Richmond streets in Toronto. They feel strange at first, he said, but motorists get used to them.

“It was extremely scary at first,” he said. “But by the third week, I was whipping in and out of it.”

It takes 60 to 90 seconds to get your car out of the stacker, he said. And there would be a back-up power system in place in case of a blackout.

“There’s never a period where you can’t access your car.”

The worst case scenario, Diamante said, is they have to buy more land for a surface lot. But “we wanted to get rid of as many surface spots as possible,” he said. “No one wants to look out at a big lot of cars.”

Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2 is open to hearing more about car stackers. As density increases, he expects to see more “creative” solutions to the parking crunch.

Height concern

“Parking is an issue throughout our core,” he said. “When you’re adding to densities, you’re adding to that issue.”

Diamante Holdings has submitted a site plan application for the complex. The city is giving feedback, after which the company will resubmit.

The city’s concerns include the height of the building in an area where the maximum is five stories, said Steve Robichaud, the city’s director of planning.

Staff are also concerned that the ability of the building to blend in with the character of James North.

City rules dictate that new condo developments have 0.8 parking spaces per condo, a standard created to encourage urban residents not to own cars. 

Coun. Brad Clark of Ward 9 in Stoney Creek told CBC Hamilton he hopes to introduce a motion this year urging council to up the limit to one parking space per condo.

Background of the Tivoli Theatre:

The Tivoli Theatre is 140 years old. Diamante Holdings, owned by Domenic Diamante, bought the theatre for $900,000 last February. He purchased it from the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble (CBYE), whose CEO is Belma Diamante, Domenic's wife.

The CBYE bought the theatre in 2004 from the Sniderman family, of Sam the Record Man fame, for $2. In June of that year, while the Snidermans still owned the Tivoli, a south-facing wall collapsed inside the building, pushing debris through an exterior wall.

The last time the Tivoli was in use was between 1998 and 2004, when the Snidermans rented the Tivoli to a local theatre company, the Tivoli Renaissance Project.

Later in 2004, the city spent $300,000 to demolish the front portion of the building, which included the original facade that faced James Street North, as well as the long lobby leading into the theatre and the washrooms.

The city granted the CBYE $75,455 in 2009 for building stabilization and heating improvements. It also gave the owners $20,000 in 2008 for a heritage feasibility study to identify potential uses for the property and gauge community interest in the building's restoration. City council also approved a $50,000 interest-free loan — since repaid — to retrofit the theatre's roof in December 2009. 

With files from Julia Chapman


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