Revitalization

Ask Management if Parking Matters

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published June 07, 2011

Rumours abound that a multi-national coffee shop chain wants to build a two-story building in downtown Dundas, a building that will fit in well with the existing streetwall.

However, the City and its almighty open-for-business mantra won't let a successful multinational network open a store without - wait for it - a parking lot.

Downtown Dundas has an urban streetwall that does not require off-street parking in front of buildings (RTH file photo)
Downtown Dundas has an urban streetwall that does not require off-street parking in front of buildings (RTH file photo)

I'm sure we're all familiar with how downtown Dundas works. It works like all successful downtowns, large and small. From Stratford, to London, to massive Toronto we can see how cores and multiple cores work. It's friendly and walkable and cyclable.

It has a density of population within a kilometer or less that creates a critical mass. This critical mass, within a walkable distance of residential homes, is exactly, what I can assume this multinational network's management saw when they chose this location.

Instead, our City leadership somehow knows more than this company about their business model.

This parking requirement by-law has been the bane of Hamilton's and our communities' cores. It prevents us from having more successful patios, coffee shops, and restaurants in our historical urban cores, from Dundas, Stoney Creek, Ancaster, Waterdown, Westdale, International Village, to King West - the list goes on and on.

These are places where people like live and patronize. It might not be everyone's ideal, but if we look at other successful communities and downtown cores, there are enough people that can walk to these retail and walkable business cores.

Parking spaces shouldn't have to be a requirement. If the prospective owner/management of the parcel has done their business plan and thinks their plan will work, let their management decide.

I wonder why our City refuses to acknowledge that property values also increase the value - and property tax assessments - of the homes in desirable neighbourhoods, within an existing neighbourhood that already has sewers, roads, policing, emergency range, and schools.

The answer to increased assessment is not to keep expanding the urban boundary for more sprawl; it also can be to infill the existing spaces and make them more desirable places to live.

Demanding parking lots does not increase walkability.

If the City is truly open for business, and we have a business willing to build and operate a business that functions just the way the community was meant to function, and their management has done their research and believes that their store will work, that should be more than enough.

Ask management.

Trey lives in Williamsville NY via Hamilton. He is a Marketing Manager for Tourism and Destination Marketing in the Buffalo-Niagara Metro.

His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger.

And can't wait for the day he stops hearing "on facebook".

41 Comments

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2011 at 11:31:36

This parking requirement by-law has been the bane of Hamilton's and our communities' cores. It prevents us from having more successful patios, coffee shops, and restaurants in our historical urban cores, from Dundas, Stoney Creek, Ancaster, Waterdown, Westdale, International Village, to King West - the list goes on and on.

Although I love Dundas...I almost resurrected The DeLuxe a few years back now...I'd have to at least chime in here and say that Stoney Creek's 'historical urban core' isn't prevented from more success because of a parking requirement by-law.

Other than that, I'm in agreement with almost all of what you're saying here.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 11:52:37

Great article, but let me be the first to say that Starbucks will be a pale presence on King st compared to Detour Coffee.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2011 at 11:54:16 in reply to Comment 64670

The good news is that the presence of a Starbucks on King Street will probably be good for business for nearby independent coffee shops.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 12:16:02

The article you linked was from February and says "Sam Esposto, on behalf of property owner McKerlie, has a minor variance application before the city’s committee of adjustment on Thursday, Feb. 24 regarding issues of on-site parking."

Does anyone know the status of the variance?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 14:36:24 in reply to Comment 64673

Status: Committee of Adjustment decision - GRANTED

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By RonMiller (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2011 at 12:30:03

There is a difference between saying and doing.

"However, the City and its almighty open-for-business mantra won't let a successful multinational network open a store without - wait for it - a parking lot."

The city needs to stand behind the words they speak. Buy a simple pair of scissors, and cut the red tapes that are preventing business from coming here. That little investment for a pair of scissors could bring in millions to the city. Do they know that? Do they care? Is anyone telling them that?

I can understand a new development should have the required amount of parking spaces, but if you are building in an already established area and someone wants to bring in jobs and money is not really stupid, I mean really stupid to say no to them?

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2011 at 13:14:43

Great coffee can also be found on Miller's Lane in Dundas.

http://cafedomestique.com/

Kris' mochachino is splendid array of awesomeness.

And...there is a patio in the back!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2011 at 15:25:50

There are definitely many reasons not to want a Starbucks in downtown Dundas. If I lived there, I'd be making a lot of noise right about now. But not on account of parking. Automobile issues too often get used as surrogates for all sorts of other concerns, because they're very easy legally to explain and enforce. What it doesn't do is address any of the actual issues around development in communities.

My dislike of chain coffee shops aside, these parking laws are asinine. It's a tax on every establishment, which gets passed on to customers (if the establishment can make it that far). This tax goes to pay for automobile infrastructure even if it clearly isn't needed, and even if the customers in question didn't drive. Geographically, they increase the average distance between buildings by a serious chunk (making any round trip much longer), and prohibits people from opening smaller, cheaper, alternatives. It's a blatant subsidy, and one we don't need.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 16:15:29 in reply to Comment 64680

There are definitely many reasons not to want a Starbucks in downtown Dundas.

Like what? I don't like Sixbucks myself but they have a right to run a business like anyone else.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2011 at 10:31:47 in reply to Comment 64684

But they don't run a business like everybody else. They have numerous advantages, including their purchasing power, their massive advertising budgets and capacity to ignore risk.

Furthermore, they take cafes - a key meeting place for community meeting, discussion, politics and art since at least the French Revolution - and reproduce them as chain outlets which aren't much more interesting than a McDonalds.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 14:58:41 in reply to Comment 64715

They run a business exactly like everyone else. Starbucks started out as a single upscale coffee house in Seattle. Then they started to expand when the business was highly successful. In the 80's they got more into European style espressos and lattes (which let's be honest, alot of newer indie coffee shops just copied later) and in the 90's they started expanding outside Seattle.

There's no reason any other coffee shop owner couldn't do the same thing if they had the motivation. It's nothing against them if they don't, but it's nothing against Starbucks if they do. Anyway, they treat their staff better than a lot of indie coffee shops do.

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By Ezaki Glico (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 10:40:20 in reply to Comment 64715

Agreed on all counts, but at Starbucks separates the wheat from the chaff. For those who are only down with weak coffee, lukewarm chat, decaf politics and co-opted art – cultural Ambien, IMHO – at least it keeps them off the streets. ;)

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By sick of this (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 15:44:33 in reply to Comment 64680

>> It's a tax on every establishment, which gets passed on to customers (if the establishment can make it that far).

If the establishment can't make it that far it still gets passed on, because the residential tax base has to carry more of the city's costs.

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By giant tiger (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 17:36:41

I'm surprised they don't require a drive-thru.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 18:50:20

My dislike of chain coffee shops aside, these parking laws are asinine.

I'm surprised they don't require a drive-thru

Normally, these types of requests from a large, foreign chain would have many people upset - destroying the character of the street etc..... yet, in this case it's the city trying to destroy the character of the street. I'd welcome a Starbucks on every block if they fit in with the neighbourhood and didn't have parking lots or drive-thru's.
City Staff/zoning needs to be held accountable on this backwards policy.

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By Freedom Seeker (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2011 at 19:11:30

There is absolutely no problem with the zoning bylaw that could not be solved with a well oiled, high powered, paper shredder.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 09:01:00

"I'm sure we're all familiar with how downtown Dundas works. It works like all successful downtowns, large and small... It's friendly and walkable and cyclable. It has a density of population within a kilometer or less that creates a critical mass."

This has always seemed like one of downtown's key handicaps: Lack of varied, high-quality, high-density options within a kilometer of King and James. It'd be interesting to find out how many RTHers live within 1 kilometer of King and James (a radius that would align with Ray, Murray, St. Joseph's and Wellington), and how many live 2km (eg. Locke and Herkimer), 3km (eg. Aberdeen and Dundurn), 4km (eg. King and Dalewood) or more from King and James.

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2011 at 13:19:24 in reply to Comment 64707

3.2km presently. 1754km in september.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2011 at 11:23:23 in reply to Comment 64707

Never lived more than a kilometre from the core.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 09:55:05 in reply to Comment 64707

1.7 km

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 07:23:09 in reply to Comment 64707

< 2 km

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By TnT (registered) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 00:11:39 in reply to Comment 64707

2.2 km.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2011 at 21:06:02 in reply to Comment 64707

1 km, live and work.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 16:45:04 in reply to Comment 64707

<= 1km

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 16:27:48 in reply to Comment 64707

< 1 km, quite happily

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 16:08:31 in reply to Comment 64707

<1km

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 15:33:03 in reply to Comment 64707

< 1km

Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2011-06-08 15:33:24

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2011 at 15:25:05 in reply to Comment 64707

< 2 km radius, but around 2.1 km walking distance.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 15:02:06 in reply to Comment 64707

< 1 km, four-bedroom single-family house, three-person family.

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By Freedom Seeker (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 12:36:07 in reply to Comment 64707

< 1 km

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 09:09:46 in reply to Comment 64707

And by "varied, high-quality, high-density options" I mean any residential that is not bachelor/studio/1BR... options that accommodate professional couples, for example, or young families.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2011 at 21:02:16

< 1km

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By Brain Storming (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 21:21:52

If you (all) were put in charge of making Hamilton the crappiest city in Canada, what are some of the things you would do?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2011 at 11:43:13 in reply to Comment 64745

Awesome question. Probably should be it's own topic.

  1. I'd appoint someone with the task of finding litigious ways of killing innovative and influential cultural establishments. This could include backpacker hostels, music/arts venues, cafes which once existed downtown, etc. I'd run a focus group to determine what was the most popular and appealing, then crush them.

  2. I'd wage a war on nature. Cut trees wherever possible, dish out fines for people allowing natural regeneration on their front lawns, and lead a relentless expansion campaign over any and all greenspace within reach.

  3. I'd turn downtown into a police state.

  4. I would open a casino downtown, and use keystone properties as chips and playing pieces.

  5. I'd endeavour to fail, publicly and in as embarrassing a means possible to deal with issues of toxic contamination. Whether it's brownfield properties, stack emissions or water issues, these matters are key players in Hamilton's Bad Image(tm), and we can't afford to lose them.

Any of this sound familiar?

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By Freedom Seeker (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 15:59:49 in reply to Comment 64763

Excellent start Unindustrial, but your lack of support for organized crime is a glaring hole in your platform. So let me suggest some improvements:

6: Stand by and do nothing when an outlaw biker gang converts a tavern into a bunker.

7: Rent office space for major city departments from a company best know for owning the site of North Americas largest ever Marijuana grow-op.

8: Pay 3 times the going rate of rent to one of North Americas most notorious Mafia controlled unions for more office space.

9: Facilitate the business activities of downtown real estate "developers" with links to eastern European organized crime syndicates known for their conduct of human trafficking for "sex slavery"

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 09:53:45 in reply to Comment 64745

I'd keep using the city's zoning handbook.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 08, 2011 at 23:34:22 in reply to Comment 64745

Ugh, let's spend our time trying to make Hamilton less crappy.

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By Dundasian (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2011 at 10:29:29

I have to wonder what some of the extreme anti-Starbucks people think about shopping at A&P, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons? For all it's size, Starbucks is a relatively good corporate entity with benefits for local people as well as head office. I don't drink a lot of coffee but Starbucks to me is reliable. (Domestique, sadly has not been)

I live in Dundas near the currently weed filled lot - a Starbucks would be no more out of place there than the one on Locke St. If I were asked what Dundas needed, it would be less clothing and nick-nack shops - But the market will decide and imposing an artificial barrier to chains, corporations and businesses which "don't feel right in my town" will not save your town, it will erode it.

Should Denningers be prevented from taking over the old Drug Store on King now that they are a huge operation? I think not.

Dunasian

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2011 at 12:15:43 in reply to Comment 64823

Speaking of drug stores, the Shoppers at King and Albert is certainly iconic. The eastern gateway to Dundas (Cootes/Dundas) – Canadian Tire, Enterprise, Sunoco, Pioneer, McDonalds, Pizza Pizza, Mac's, Tims, KFC etc – is less architecturally significant but equally compelling in its variety.

I'm being a bit cheeky here. I agree that the market will dictate what prevails, but surely you must admit that Dundas has consciously branded itself as an historic version of Pleasantville/Bedford Falls.

http://www.downtowndundas.ca/

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By ShaddapGiddyup (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2011 at 16:26:23

You guys give me a headache.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted June 20, 2011 at 08:48:11

"Bratina suggested they could sell the city’s surplus parking lots, which would generate both revenue and savings by reducing the number of parking bylaw officers needed."

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/550146--city-council-considers-hiring-new-staff

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