By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians are looking for someone willing to spend millions of dollars to build a parking garage in the downtown core to solve a parking problem projected to happen within five years.
Members of the planning committee agreed at their Sept.17 meeting, to seek out possible investors interested in building at least a 500-space parking lot within the downtown, especially in two high volume areas, on Bay and King streets, and King William.
The idea was prompted by MMM Group updating its 2005 report for the city at a cost of about $100,000, on the state ofHamilton’s downtown parking. Council has asked for the updated parking report in August 2012.
The consultant recommended building at least one new parking garage in the core, either at high volume locations King and Bay streets, or John and King William. The report stated those locations will be near capacity within five years. The city will be in need of about 360 spots within four years and another 700 spots by 2022.
A new parking garage would cost between $20 million to $29 million to build, and upwards of about $550,000 to operate depending upon whether the facility is above ground or underground. But the garage would generate upwards of $1.49 million in revenue annually, by charging premium rates. Hamilton, the report stated, has one of the lowest parking rates in the province among larger municipalities.
But the report also contradicted itself. In 2005, the city’s parking usage was about 75 per cent. But now it dropped to about 68 per cent, meaning, said Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins the consultant was advocating for more parking even though there has been a decline parking usage.
The city has about 13,000 parking spaces, but the city only controls about 4,000 of them.
Collins didn’t want the city to anyway get involved in building a new parking garage. He said there are more important areas to spend taxpayers’ money on in the downtown area.
“I see these as money pits,” said Collins. “If the private sector is not doing it…that’s a good indication. I’m not convinced.”
Although the Hamilton Convention Centre parking lot makes money, theYork Boulevardparking lot, which the city built years ago has usually produced an annual deficit.
“The further you move away from the core, it’s a struggle to break even,” said Collins.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, though, said parking will be in high demand in a few years when the McMaster Health Campus opens, and the Hilton-owned hotel on Bay Street is also welcoming customers.
“Things are booming,” said Ferguson. “Look out the window.”
Ted Arnold, manager of parking operations, said in city-owned parking lots, there are waiting lists for people to buy monthly passes.
“We could sell another 1,000 (of them),” he said.
But Arnold cautioned politicians the city isn’t looking to build a new parking garage. If it did, it would construct one on an existing parking lot, and incorporate retail space, and maybe residential units within the complex.
“All we are doing is updating the information from 2003 to 2005,” he said.
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark urged the committee to approve a motion to seek out prospective investors to build a parking garage in the city. Staff will issue a request for information to see if any one is willing to make the investment into the downtown.
“Issuing the RFI is the ultimate test,” said Ferguson.