Revitalization

Lack of Parking Puts Brakes on Ward 3 Development

By Jason Leach
Published April 14, 2011

this blog entry has been updated

I received a staff report from the City yesterday (sorry, print copy only - it will be posted online tomorrow) recommending that Council deny the owners of 922 Main East their application for a new apartment building with ground floor commercial.

Rendering: Main Street Condominiums, Hamilton (Image Credit: cianfrone architect inc)
Rendering: Main Street Condominiums, Hamilton (Image Credit: cianfrone architect inc)

The staff report praises the development throughout: good form of intensification, retail spaces on the ground floor (people have already contacted City Hall expressing interest in these retail spaces), and the preservation of a church as a community centre. It references Places to Grow, the City's GRIDS growth strategy, the Official Plan, and new Hamilton Urban Plan

The developers even plan to add a Hamilton CarShare parking space.

Nevertheless, staff recommend denying the application, due to (get ready) the number of parking spaces.

The proposal is for seven stories, with 48 units and 35 parking spaces (this is already scaled back from the original proposal of 8 stories and 56 units). Our City's mandatory parking requirements insist on 1.25 spaces per residential unit, which would mean 60 spots, but the proposal only provides 0.73 spaces per unit.

The developer has said they may be forced to demolish the church if the city insists on these extra spots. The report notes that the church is "not designated [as a heritage building], but we would not want it to be demolished".

Once again, parking is running the city, instead of good urban design and use of existing infrastructure. When was the last time someone wanted to build anything like this in Ward 3? Yet we'd rather have surface parking on Main Street than new residential and retail units fronting the street.

The city sent out 358 notices to surrounding property owners. Three responses came back: two letters of objection and one letter of support (that was me; my office is next door).

As far as I'm concerned, Hamilton remains officially closed for business when two people out of 358 can kill a project over a few parking spots, despite the entire report praising the project.


Update: The report is now online:

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Wrecking ball (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:29:08

Parking stalls as the new house of god?

Shameful. 1.25 spaces should be the maximum, not the minimum.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:34:25

You gotta be kidding me....

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By theninjasquad (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:35:07

Wow, way to discourage development.

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By RyanB (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:50:59

Any comments from Bratina or councillors about this?

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:54:22

I think here's a case where even the most hardcore free-marketers would agree.

This policy is deliberately destroying Hamilton's economy and sacrificing its economic vibrancy on the altar of the automobile. If the developer doesn't need the parking, it shouldn't be required - simple as that.

The link below, from the Cato Institute, illustrates some of the most effective ways of managing the issue of parking in modern cities. Of course, one of the key items that they recommend is the removal of minimum parking restrictions.

http://www.cato-unbound.org/2011/04/04/d...

"Academic research has repeatedly shown that minimum parking requirements inflict widespread damage on cities, the economy, and the environment. But this research has had little influence on planning practice. Most city planners continue to set minimum parking requirements as though nothing had happened. "

Comment edited by arienc on 2011-04-14 12:58:19

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 13:31:46

I used to live in a condo downtown (Durand) with 30 units. We had 16 parking spaces (and one of them was essentially unusable in the winter). When I moved out, there were three vacant spots.

Not everyone needs a car, and not everyone will have one. Holy frig, council, please give them their variance, or whatever they need.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 13:40:20

For anyone who wants a very good and detailed look at the economics behind this nonsense, take a look at Donald Shoup's book "The High Cost of Free Parking". The library has it, and though it's massive, you learn something on nearly every page.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/07...

Wanna see more walkable neighbourhoods? Stop mandating car-friendly ones. In downtown Toronto, a single parking space can cost over $30 000. This is a massive investment of cash and space, and serves only as a massive subsidy to drivers and the auto industry, at the expense of cityscapes which were never designed to handle this much traffic. Just look at the number of entire blocks which have been and are still being levelled for parking downtown.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 13:51:13

I used to live at 200 bay. The only time parking was an issue was when I had guests, and they knew they'd just have to hunt around the surrounding neighborhood for street-side parking.

Real solution: get rid of those "no stopping at rush-hour" signs on Main street. Main's traffic is so fast it can afford to lose a lane.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 14:30:03

The parking spaces required per unit within the downtown core is 0.8. If this project was in the downtown core, the parking would almost be enough.

I'm pretty sure the new zoning bylaw has lower parking requirements within the identified development zones along the A-line and B-line. If that is the case, this project would essentially comply by the time it is built.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 16:03:17

So, when is the next council meeting? Everyone commenting here seems for this build. I live not too far from this location. This area of Main needs this.

Let's help this developer as a community. Let them know that the residens of this city want these people coming to Hamilton and helping us grow our city.

This site used to be used a lot for Cats parking. It's just up the street from Ivor Wynne. This kind of development would be so welcome in what we would like to develop as the 'Stadium District'.

How often do you hear big business saying they don't want to rip down a heritage building (even though it's not classified as one). This person is looking out for 'us', so let's look out for him and add a lot more yah's to those two ney's.

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By RyanB (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 18:01:57 in reply to Comment 62278

Agreed.

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By I hate Winnipeg (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 16:21:21

This a little nauseating. On the bright side, 3 responses out of 358 signifies that people secretly want this. It is too much effort, I suppose, to return a form saying I support this, even though it does nothing for me personally. The fact that only 2 out of 358 residents were opposed should be a green light for Council to make this work. That Church should remain. I was on Mississauga road N. of 401 today - it was sad to see glorious looking century homes boarded up ready for the wrecking ball next to rapidly encroaching Box store plazas. Shame on us if we encourage demolition for the sake of progress, especially when someone is offering to build without destroying something else. H&J

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 16:45:24

The report should be online tomorrow and I encourage everyone to read it, and email your councillor.
There are a ton of juicy nuggets in that report that will leave you slapping your forehead. One of my favourites is the statement that there is curbside parking on the northside of Main and side streets north of Main, but it's too dangerous for people to cross Main St from those parking spaces to access this building.

So instead of fixing a dangerous, business-killing freeway through the heart of a commercial/residential neighbourhood (oddly enough, supported by the Chamber of (no)Commerce), we will not allow any new development.
Great solution.

That's just one of many mind numbing aspects of this report that help shed light on why folks who try to open small businesses or urban businesses in this city (Bread Bar, Mulberry St etc...) feel like hanging themselves after wading through the Red (tape) Sea.

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By ilpo (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 18:50:31

As part of the article notes, there is a Hamilton CarShare http://hamiltoncarshare.ca already operating in the city.

To encourage this development and to get the ball rolling on changing the rules all over the city we should all join, if you're not already a member. To start you can join for $10 as an Associate [non-driving] member. There will be volunteers at the Hamilton Farmers Market most of Saturday 16 April 2011 if you would like further information on the advantages and benefits of membership.

The developer can also contact the Hamilton CarShare [if they have not yet} to work out details of placing a car at the development once it is ready to open - written agreements go farther with council.

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By Taxman (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 23:08:36

This is terribly stupid, and I will be writing my councillor about it.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 23:36:43

I wouldn't say I'm for or against this development. Don't really know a lot about it, which I'll freely admit. I simply feel it should be judged on better grounds than how many parking spaces it can provide.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 01:01:18

The rules for these kinds of projects are pretty straightforward and well known. Why would the developer not simply abide by the rules? How big of a parking garage would really be needed to comply? Lots of apartment and condo buildings in Hamilton seem to be able to comply why not this project? Why is there always the expectation of changing the rules or making exceptions for certain projects? I certainly do not approve of many rules and laws and yet I need to live by them non the less.

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By Steve (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 05:50:29

"The rules for these kinds of projects are pretty straightforward and well known. Why would the developer not simply abide by the rules?"

That's the problem. The 'rules' need to be changed! They don't make any sense and only impede development.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 07:55:57

As a ward 3 resident I find this beyond depressing. We need some decent development along Main and along King out here. This makes me feel almost as awful as when, not long after we moved here, we discovered that Hamilton could have gone for LRT in the eighties... kind of sick-making.

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By Nords (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 09:00:39

The report is up on the city website now. Just a minor point of devil's advocacy. Jason, your article implies that the city is enforcing the 1.25 parking spaces per unit requirement. The report notes that staff are fine with a reduction down to 1 space per unit just not the full reduction down to .7 or whatever they are proposing. The article is just a bit misleading on that point. But I agree that to deny the application only based on a few parking spaces is a bitter pill to swallow. Somehow I doubt Councillor Morelli is going to champion this project though. He's more concerned about illegal housing conversion, drugs and prostitution then pushing through good solid development.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 09:30:28 in reply to Comment 62331

He's more concerned about illegal housing conversion

How does that saying go again? When you outlaw multi-unit dwelling construction, only outlaws will build multi-unit dwellings.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 09:09:30

thanks for pointing that out Nords.
I think it was the Hamilton Parking Authority section where I copied the stats about 1.25 etc....
If the city is only trying to get them to 1 space per unit, then this is even more ridiculous. .73 should be fine, especially considering the building is geared to seniors.

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By Steve (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 13:11:32

@Nords. Morelli cares about illegal conversion, drugs and prostitution?

The make-up of my Ward 3 street, which has been subject to all 3 things, would beg to differ with that statement.

Ask him to provide his plan on how he's going to fix the dire situation in many sections of Ward 3. Ask him to post it on his website for all the residents to see. Then when you learn he has no plan you'll know he doesn't really care... btw, saying lobby your provincial representative, and bemoaning privacy & punishment laws does not a plan make.

Truly,
Steve - a different Steve than above

ps. Ryan, I love your outlaw quote.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 13:26:20

The problem with the rules here is that they make it far more expensive and complicated to build housing than it has to be. The "red tape" simply excludes 90+% of the population from even thinking about attempting a project like this. What we're left with is a few large development firms which can afford to start a few high-end condo conversions (since little else will cover the costs), and a bunch of slumlords who disregard all the rules and devote their efforts to dodging them.

The parking rules are particularly offensive, since they're also a means of enforcing car-friendliness, but the bylaw system in general are crushing small-time development, and you need only ask one of the may entrepreneurs on here about how much that actually ends up costing.

I have no problem with developments being responsible to the neighbourhoods they operate in, or paying their fair share. But that's not what's happening here. The massive fees levelled will not be returned "to the community", and neither the by-laws in question nor their enforcement is coming (as far as we can tell) from any grassroots outcry. It's just another petty bureaucratic tyranny flexing their muscles.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 09:49:50 in reply to Comment 62348

All rules make building more complicated and expensive than it needs to be. Where do you propose to set the line? Are wiring codes ok or do we reduce/eliminate them to? How about those pesky minimums on rebar in concrete? I wager you want to remove the restrictions that you believe are not necessary, essentially you want to make the decisions for all of us because you know better. Parking is about more than having enough spots for the inhabitants. Since the building will be geared to seniors many will have physical limitations to walking a long distance to their cars so available spots will be gone in a flash. Most seniors do not work so leaving in the morning and arriving in the early evening is not a regular part of their routine. They will probably be able to find some kind of acceptable parking solution and learn that their car simply needs to be parked by the time the masses return from work. What about the present residents? How much of an inconvenience will this be for them? That is why we have a lot of the rules we do, for the benefit of others. There are hundreds of buildings in Hamilton that have managed to meet the parking requirements set out in the bylaws or at least the limits actually imposed by city hall. What makes this project unable or unwilling to comply? I suspect the answer is that the developer can make more money with out the additional parking spots. If there were a real reason I am confident that would be included in the article and the in the developers lament. The price of the units will not climb much with the added spots making the per unit profit lower and in my mine that simply is not a good enough reason to change or bend the rules.

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By Squelch (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 11:57:20 in reply to Comment 62546

Squelch, squelch, squelch.

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By Monopolist (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 13:53:46 in reply to Comment 62348

I think the few large development firms actually like it that way, it provides a nice barrier to entry that keeps upstart competition out of the market.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 15:26:57

Similarly, the city is taking an innovative approach to the parking problem that surrounds the most beautiful park in Ontario (yes, it is. No, your counter-example is not as beautiful as Spencer Gorge. Shut up.):

To ruin it.

http://www.stoneycreeknews.com/news/arti...

Because of demand being too high, they want to let Spencer Gorge grow over. No more picnics next to the cobblestone bridge over the river abruptly stops.

Because there's too much traffic and demand for parking. The possibility of raising parking prices is never even considered.

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By Peter (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 01:03:21

I'll never understand why zoning bylaws for parking are necessary. If someone wants to build a condo with no parking, then let them already!!!!

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:07:41

This just never changes. My father wrote a whole series of articles for the KW Record back in the early nineties when KW was dealing with recession, crumbling cores, homelessness, etc...

Sound familiar?

...intensification is not a popular policy in some areas of the city. It never really is until people understand the consequences of not doing anything.

The consequences are a dying urban core surrounded with suburbs that are very expensive to service. - John Kiely, Housing Intensification Is Another Form Of Recycling, KW Record, Apr 29, 1991

SIGH… They still don't get it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 21:38:47

does anyone know what happened today in the council meeting when discussing this project?

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By TnT (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 23:07:42

Hamilton is not totally off people radar, check out the comment section under this link:

http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/Canada-...

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By FatalFourWay (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 07:57:24

That link seems to promote Windsor as some great investment opportunity. One comment about Hamilton from a homer doesn't a point make.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 22:46:15

We won't even allow a 7 storey building on Main St, surrounded by other 6-9 storey buildings....what chance does this have? http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthre...

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By BigP (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2011 at 13:40:07

Actually there was other issues then just the number of parking spaces. The design had poor accessibility (the entrance for all the parking, delivery and customer parking would have been off Balsam). The parking lot was cramped with no way to turn around which would have made it ridiculously hard to get in and out of. Take in to consideration that this building was supposed to be geared towards seniors. Now look at that site plan and try to imagine DARTS buses, delivery trucks, emergency vehicles and residents.

I totally agree that in certain situations you can waive parking space restrictions. But those situations are downtown. You cannot apply a downtown solution to Ward 3. There already a big parking problem as is. Most people out here drive to work. There are lots of duplex and triplex houses that have 4-5 car owners and only 1 or 2 parking spots. Adding a building like that which will cause even more spillover is only going to make things worse.

And lets not kid ourselves, the developer did not want to demo that church because of the costs involved, not because of the kindness of their heart. It's been sitting unused for over a decade. Tear it down and create a flow through parking lot so cars enter of main and leave off Balsam. There will be plenty of room for extra spots and you could flatten the footprint of the building by one floor which would be nice since this is an 8 story obelisk in a neighborhood of 2 or 3 story houses.

Nobody says these guys cant build. They should just quit cutting corners and take the rest of the area in to consideration.

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By Steve (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 15:52:21 in reply to Comment 62633

Actually, the proper solution is to crack down on all those illegally converted duplexes, triplexes & 4-plexes.

That way we can then get legal buildings built in the neighbourhood. Ones that can get accomodation on parking because they are playing by the rules and they will also pay increased property taxes.

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By Parking spot (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2011 at 14:06:59

This will work out, don't worry.

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