3 companies want to build parking garages downtown

Despite critics saying that downtown Hamilton doesn't need any more parking, the city is talking to three companies right now interested in building new parking structures.

More parking facilities 'literally makes no sense,' critic says

The city is talking to three companies right now interested in building parking garages downtown as part of new multi-use developments. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

Despite critics saying that downtown Hamilton doesn't need any more parking, the city is talking to three companies right now interested in building new parking structures.

City staff is in preliminary discussions for parking facilities at King and Bay and an area east of James and north of King Street, said Marty Hazell, the city's director of parking and bylaw services. The developments would include other types of uses, such as commercial or office space, in addition to multi-level parking.

It’s still in the early stages. Some have money but no land. Some have land but need money. But Hazell expects to come to council sometime this year to update it and possibly get direction on where to go with the talks.

We’re just throwing around some ideas.- Marty Hazell, director of parking and bylaw services

“Neither side in any of the discussions have had any urgent time lines to get something moving,” he said. “We’ll come back to council with as many options as we think are feasible.”

Councillors directed staff in September 2013 to put out a request for interest for private companies willing to build or partner on new downtown parking structures.

MMM Group Limited, a building services firm, did a parking study of downtown Hamilton. The report predicted a future parking shortage and recommended two new parking garages — one at King and Bay and one at John and King William. The structures would cost as much as $23 million for an above-grade garage and $29 million for below grade, the report said. It would also cost $520,300 per year to operate an above-ground garage and $552-500 for below grade.

The company cited new developments that would cover existing surface parking lots. There are also a number of new high-density condo developments planned for downtown. Among them is The Connolly, a 30-storey condo tower that plans for 259 condos and only 122 parking spaces.

But councillors balked at MMM's dollar figures, saying it made no financial sense for the city to get into the stand-alone parking garage business. Some also questioned the assertion that downtown needed more parking.

Parking demand has declined 10 per cent since 2005, the report showed. But MMM predicted that by 2022, 1,066 spaces will be lost to new developments, while demand will increase by 714 spaces.

It literally makes no sense other than they have got it in their minds that we have to build more parking structures.- Ryan McGreal

City council directed staff to put out a request for interest for companies who would want to incorporate a parking structure into a development that includes other uses, such as commercial or office space.

That request brought five responses, Hazell said. Of those, one remains, but two others have stepped forward since.

Does downtown need more parking?

Hazell wouldn’t give details about the companies. Their ideas are across the board, he said, as are ideas about how the city would contribute.

“We’re just throwing around some ideas. We’ll get as creative as we want to be but we’re not at the stage of those detailed discussions yet.”

In May, transit advocate Ryan McGreal wrote an article for his website, Raise the Hammer, called “Downtown Hamilton has a glut of parking, not a shortage.”

McGreal still questions the need for more parking.

Hamilton has some of the cheapest downtown parking rates of any city its size, he said. It’s cheaper to get a monthly parking pass than a monthly transit pass.

Report coming soon on sacrificing a surface lot

“Certainly, the evidence doesn’t indicate that we need parking facilities,” McGreal said.

“It literally makes no sense other than (city officials) have got it in their minds that we have to build more parking structures.”

“We don’t need it, can’t afford it, and it’s actually contrary to our objectives.”

Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2 wants to see a building with businesses on the ground floor. The city’s urban design panel should vet the developments, he said, so they would be complimentary to the surrounding buildings.

Farr also pushed the city in May to give up a surface parking lot for a good development. Downtown Hamilton is so covered in low-density surface lots, he said then, that it’s “an overwrought map of asphalt.”

Staff will come back to councillors within six weeks with ideas on submitting a request for proposal, which would invite interested companies to submit ideas for projects.

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