Watch video above: Yorkdale mall employees forbidden from using parking lots on weekends. Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO – Employees are Yorkdale Mall are being told that as long as construction continues, they can’t use in the mall’s parking lot on weekends.
While Yorkdale Shopping adds 300,000 square feet of shopping, it’s become clear to many regular customers that parking has become a little harder to find.
Management is trying to make things easier for customers who drive but now they are finding themselves trying to balance what’s good for business and what’s good for staff.
Weekends have become the toughest time to find parking at Yorkdale, especially during peak hours in the early-afternoon.
“We’ve been getting messages on an on-going basis from our customers just letting us know that it is very difficult to get in and out of Yorkdale and to find a parking spot,” general manager Claire Santamaria said.
She proceeds to show us a list of tweets directed at the mall’s Twitter account.
Construction crews are currently tearing down the three-floor parking tower on the northeast side of the mall and replacing it with a five-storey underground garage. During construction, Yorkdale short hundreds of parking spots.
In response, management is making changes. They insist it’s nothing personal, just business.
“Effective May 31st employees at Yorkdale Shopping Centre…that work here either for the shopping centre or one of our retailers, will be asked to park off-site on Saturdays and Sundays only,” Santamaria said.
Right now most employees park in gated lots that require an access card. The new weekend parking protocol will immediately open up 1,200 spots and relieve congestion in their lots, management said.
Yorkdale shoppers interviewed off mall property don’t deny that it’s a huge benefit but say they’re not too comfortable with it.
“It’s unfair,” Shellon Simon said. “I get what they’re doing for customers but at the same time they have to think about people who work for them. If they can make them happier then they can get better service. It’s convenient for them.”
A mall employee who contacted Global News, wishing to stay anonymous, said he and his co-workers feel slighted. He claimed staff found out during a series of meetings at the mall over several weeks.
“The general consensus was that this is unfair. And there’s a lot of people that actually do drive to the mall that it’s going to impact in a much larger way because they’re coming from even further away than I am,” the employee said.
But Santamaria said it’s not “meant to be punitive.”
“What it really is, is to help the businesses that have located here at Yorkdale continue to do business.,” Santamaria said. “We know that they’re only as successful as the amount of people that we can get into the shopping centre to shop…In fact, the majority of our employees absolutely understand that we’re doing this really in their best interests as well.”
Mall employees and managers will have to register their license plates with security, which will utilize plate scanning technology to make sure employees aren’t in their lots on Saturday or Sunday.
Violating the new rule would result in a municipal parking ticket, even if they’re just shopping on their downtime.
Management advises staff to park for free at nearby TTC lots like Wilson Station and ride the subway in. Once they register their plates, they’ll give them 16 TTC tokens “to get them over that one month of transition,” says Santamaria.
Construction is expected to last into 2016, and management realizes that 16 tokens will not last a year and half, even if used just on weekends.
The employee that spoke to Global News says management refused to listen to alternative suggestions.
“We were outraged because we’re now incurring costs we wouldn’t have had to pay,” the Yorkdale employee said.
Management says the average annual value of one of their parking spots is $250,000.
The anonymous employee says much of the money is generated through the hard work of staff.
“We used to think we were valued, and now we’re kind of finding out we were wrong.”
Employees are not guaranteed to get their weekend parking spots back when construction is over.
Yorkdale management says when things are finally back to normal, they will re-evaluate the situation.