There were some people who were pretty upset last night at a meeting held for the residents of Winnipeg’s Exchange District. The topic of discussion was parking. In the past the city has sold annual residential parking passes to people who live in the east or west Exchange. The pass allows us to park personal vehicles we have registered with the city on the streets near our homes for as long as we want, whenever we want. With parking spaces at a premium in the area, and accusations that some local residents were abusing the passes, the residential parking pass program was eliminated. The city did ‘grandfather in’ people who’d had passes in the past, allowing them to keep their passes for one more year while the city figured out an alternate solution for residential parking in the Exchange District.
When residents received a notice that a meeting was going to be held in the Can West building on November 21 we all assumed the solution the city had devised would be presented to us. Not so. The meeting was simply a chance for us fill out a survey and to ‘voice’ our concerns; and people certainly did just that.
I felt reasonably fortunate after the meeting. I own a permanent parking spot in a garage adjacent to my building and it was included in the purchase price of my condo. There are people however who recently purchased condos in some of the newer buildings in the area that don’t have parking spots. They purchased those condos because they were told they could buy a residential parking pass and park their cars on the street. Now they can’t and their only alternative is to pay expensive meter parking fees and run outside every two hours to move their car during the day. One woman moved into a brand new condo with twenty suites and says the other nineteen are empty and will remain so till the parking problem is solved.
A downtown developer voiced his concerns as well. He bought a number of Exchange District buildings to remodel into condos expecting the residents of those condos could park on the streets. Now they can’t and until a parking solution is found he won’t be doing any renovating. He’d gladly demolish one or two of the buildings he purchased to create parking for the others. However as is the case with most buildings in the Exchange District, the ones he purchased have a historical designation so he isn’t allowed to tear them down even though he owns them.
One resident got quite heated. The city wants people to move downtown and then they make it impossible for them or their guests to park there? C’mon! What is the city thinking? One woman spoke about the positive impact it has on an area when people make their homes there instead of just businesses or offices being located there. If that is important than the city needs to make it easier and not harder to live in the Exchange.
My concern is one many people my age shared. When our elderly parents come to visit we park outside on the street and give them our indoor spots. When our children and grandchildren come to visit from out of town we do the same thing. The city’s elimination of the residential parking passes is making it difficult for many of us to have our families visit us. We also feel the lack of residential parking has decreased the value of our homes.
We asked how many people had been abusing the passes. It seemed like only a few had. Could the city not deal with these cases individually, cancel those passes and let the rest of us keep ours? Apparently the interests of businesses like restaurants need to be considered as well. New restaurants won’t locate in the Exchange if their patrons can’t find parking.
We were told a new parking garage is in the works for our area and there is a possibility Exchange residents will be able to purchase a reserved space for $28,000 or rent spots in those garages by the month at a cost of around $200-$250. However Exchange residents may have to walk up to four or five blocks between the garage and their home depending on where they live.
At the meeting there were a variety of presentations. One was by Colin Stewart from the Winnipeg Parking Authority who told us they need to consider all the users of parking in the Exchange District and that there are many different kinds of parkers with different needs. Bert Treller, from Imperial Parking, the largest commercial provider of parking in the Exchange was also present. His company is willing to work together with the city and residents to come up with creative solutions to the Exchange District parking crisis. We also heard from Sharon Feigon representing a car share cooperative. I wrote about that idea in a previous post. Loretta Martin of Centre Venture was also answering questions. Apparently people from all these groups have been meeting regularly to try to come up with parking solutions for the Exchange.
The message they got from the residents last night was that the sooner they do that the better!