Downtown residents fear new surface parking lot will open floodgates to more

Click to play video: 'Central Edmonton lot goes from housing people to housing vehicles' Central Edmonton lot goes from housing people to housing vehicles
WATCH ABOVE: How would you like a home in your neighbourhood replaced with a parking lot? It happened on one high-density residential street downtown. While some expect surface parking in central Edmonton, the Downtown Edmonton Community League sees it differently. Vinesh Pratap reports – Mar 17, 2016

It’s a rather innocuous development in downtown Edmonton, but a new surface parking lot at 99 Avenue and 104 Street has some city centre residents concerned about a precedent it may set.

Where a three-storey apartment building was recently demolished, a small parking lot now sits- allowing residents of a neighbouring apartment building to park their vehicles.

It’s not the only surface parking lot in the area, in fact there are several close by.

Initially, the application for the new lot was rejected by the city.

“It’s just further encroachment and destruction of our urban fabric,” Chris Buyze of the Downtown Edmonton Community League says. “Especially in such a high-density area.”

But an appeal saw the parking space get approval by the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.

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“I think time will tell if we have an issue,” Ward 6 City Councillor Scott McKeen says.

Although the 104 Street lot is strictly for private, residential use, the Downtown Edmonton Community League is expressing its concern that approval could open the door for more area landowners to try and profit by converting smaller, underused and more maintenance-intensive properties into parking lots.

Adding to those worries, is the fact that Rogers Place is set to open later in the year and will likely spur a significant demand for downtown parking among hockey fans and concert goers.

“We’re also concerned that downtown doesn’t become overparked which is what we already think it is,” Buyze adds. “We really believe that’s not in the keeping of a revitalized downtown.”

Over the past 10 years, numerous lots have been phased out to make way for new development which has resulted in more people and businesses, and as a result, higher parking rates. But some downtown residents say that’s no reason to turn back the clock on efforts to mitigate the number of surface parking lots.

“In the future… we really need to have council look at these kind of issues and to further discourage surface parking,” Buyze says.

But McKeen says a policy of blanket rejection of surface parking lots isn’t necessarily the best way to legislate higher-density development in the downtown core.

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“Unfortunately, the provincial legislation doesn’t allow us to tax it in any different way,” he says. “If we could, I think that’s the other thing we would build in some disincentive over time.”

With files from Vinesh Pratap.

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