London

City wants to turn this surface parking lot into something better

City planners are moving ahead with a proposal to partner with a private developer to turn a city-owned surface parking lot at 185 Queens Ave. into a commercial or residential development that includes in its plan a multi-level parking garage.

Aim is to partner with developer in joint venture that will include a multi-level parking garage

This surface parking lot off Queens Avenue and behind the London Music Hall has parking for 74 vehicles. The city will issue a request for proposals, seeking developers willing to partner with the city in a joint venture to transform the space into a mixed-use development that includes a parking garage. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

As it stands now, 185 Queens Ave. is a city-owned surface parking lot with spots for 74 vehicles, but city planners would like to see it become something more. 

To realize this vision, staff in the city's planning department will issue a request for proposals with the goal of partnering with a private developer to turn the half-acre lot west of Clarence Street into a development that will include a municipal parking garage. 

The development itself could be a mix of commercial and residential, but with more public parking as a key component. 

It's part of a plan to address the city's 2017 downtown parking strategy, which pointed to a need to increase access to public parking in the downtown core, while reducing the number of private surface lots, which are seen as a waste of valuable real estate. The challenge is that less than 20 per cent of surface lots in London's downtown are owned by the city. 

The city's call for partners in the project will go in two stages. 

First there will be a request for qualifications to ensure the developers who come forward have experience with similar projects. That will be followed by a request for more detailed proposals for the space.

In addition to parking for regular vehicles, city staff also want the plan to include parking for bikes, electric vehicles and carpool vehicles. Developers must also demonstrate the plan fits into the downtown heritage conservation district, and will work with the London Musical Hall's operations.

According to the staff report, the aim is to have a proposal selected by the second quarter of next year. 

John Fleming, the city's manager of planning, said the proposal process would hold any developer to tight deadlines to ensure the construction process isn't drawn out. 

"We need to make sure whoever does win this process acts and acts in the short term," he said. 

The city of London is seeking a partner to re-develop this city-owned parking lot at 185 Queens street into a commercial/residential development that includes a parking garage. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Surface lots seen as waste of space

Coun. Jesse Helmer said he'd like to see all the surface parking lots along Queens Avenue "develop into something useful."

"This kind of re-development is what we want to see private-sector proponents coming forward with," he said.  "The sooner we can get it redeveloped into a mixed-use building, the better."

Helmer also noted that multilevel parking is expensive, and said he doesn't want the proposal to create a huge cost for taxpayers.

"The parking lot itself needs to pay for itself over time," he said.  

The city's planning committee voted 5-0 Monday to move ahead with the proposal. 

It will next go to full council for a final vote. 

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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