Some Sparks Street businesses are apprehensive that a new City of Ottawa study could result in a decrease in shopper parking if its proposals are implemented, says Les Gagne, executive director of the street’s BIA.
The city revealed the results of the Downtown Moves study at an open house on Jan. 17. The study proposes major changes to the downtown core made in conjunction with the arrival of Confederation Line light rail in 2018.
The area is already facing a parking deficit and with the looming prospect of losing even more spaces some businesses are concerned, says Gagne.
“You’re strangling Sparks Street and the business community by preventing people from finding easy parking spaces,” Gagne says. “How is Sparks Street going to survive when we have the strategy of taking away more and more parking spaces in place?”
Many of the open air mall’s customers view shopping as a destination and prefer to drive, relying on nearby parking for up to three hours, Gagne says.
“The reality is if you don’t make it inviting enough for customers, they won’t come down.”
The Downtown Moves study intends to minimize its impact on parking and maintain current spaces because of their value to businesses, says Nelson Edwards, the city planner leading the study. In the study parking lanes are converted into wider sidewalks during busy periods called “swing spaces” so they can be preserved.
Parking will always be a concern, he adds, but changes need to be made, especially with the arrival of LRT.
“We’re working really hard to integrate (proposals) with the Confederation Line so as to avoid people popping out of the ground onto an old, grubby sidewalk that’s barely wide enough to handle thousands upon thousands of people,” Edwards says.
The numbers of transit users and cyclists are quickly rising and Edwards says this adds to the necessity of balancing the needs of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
The Downtown Moves team is open to adapting to the public’s concerns, he says.
After hearing constructive comments at the open house it is already modifying elements of the study such as clarifying the document’s confusing language, before it goes to transportation committee in March.
Rob Dekker, vice-president of the Centretown Citizens Community Association, says he thinks the city could do a better job finding more parking spaces.
Both Dekker and Gagne agree the city should complete a study on the availability of downtown parking. There seems to be a discrepancy between the number of required spaces for developments and the actual number of spaces. Dekker says.