“10 years, we haven’t moved an inch,” says business owner, but urbanization plans major parking expansion over next two years
Downtown parking was the major debate at the Newmarket Downtown BIA’s annual general meeting, as business owners voiced concerns about waiting for solutions.
The BIA board of directors met at the municipal office on November 29 to review its year and confirm its budget of approximately $30,000. Although the meeting highlighted various events occurring in the BIA, ongoing concerns about limited parking spaces took up much of the evening’s open discussion.
Board member Allan Cockburn said it remained a major problem.
“We continue to experience parking setbacks when we need to move forward,” Cockburn said.
Increased pressure is expected on downtown parking when the Postmark Hotel opens, now planned for 2024. The city’s planned solution is to transform the current downtown tennis courts into an extension of car park. But the start of this construction awaits the completion of a new facility for the Newmarket Tennis Club, postponed until spring due to soil conditions on the site.
Cockburn suggested the city consider starting construction on the parking lot sooner, even though it could leave the tennis club temporarily homeless.
“Are we delaying a parking program for a very small group of people? said Cockburn, adding that there are other facilities that tennis players could use temporarily. “The key word in this city is parking. For 10 years, we haven’t moved an inch.”
Councilman Bob Kwapis, the city’s representative on the BIA, pushed back and said it was unfair because the city added parking downtown during that time. During the meeting, he also pointed out that the BIA is exploring parking options along Church Street to help alleviate the problem.
Kwapis said a solution was on the horizon, within two years.
“The city is moving forward to resolve the problem. Let’s be patient, everyone,” Kwapis said.
The Postmark Hotel, in addition to its own parking spaces, plans to use valet parking in some city parking spaces. However, Kwapis said they were talking about measures such as bringing in employees from further afield.
But members of the public highlighted how parking problems have persisted for many years.
Carmina Pereria, a downtown property owner, said people often have trouble finding places to park when eating downtown.
“We have a big parking problem,” she said, adding that with the Postmark Hotel coming, “the city should have known about it and said, ‘We need to move faster.’
Elisabeth Hempen expressed appreciation for the efforts of the BIA and the city, but she suggested that someone be more dedicated to downtown issues.
“We have to take this very, very seriously,” she said.
The topic of closing Main Street to vehicle traffic also surfaced. Debate over the issue has been going on for years, and while the city has plans to carry out a dedicated pilot project, it has yet to happen.
Kwapis said the city faces factors beyond its control, such as Metrolinx construction on the rail line, which could impact side streets that would become more crucial with Main Street closed to vehicles.
“There is a bit of difficulty in coordinating even a pilot project,” he said, adding that such a measure would also require support from the BIA. “The first closure will allow us to understand more quickly where the challenges lie.”
The concept still arouses reluctance. Board member Patricia Carmichael said accessibility would be an issue, due to the lack of ramps from nearby parking lots.
“I think closing this street full time is really going to hurt people, and a lot of people can’t be dropped off outside the store,” she said.
Find ways to do more
The BIA is also exploring ways to improve its finances. With a budget of around $30,000 to $40,000 from membership dues, split between advertising and events like Canada Day and Halloween, the BIA is looking for other ways to raise funds. Ideas include sponsorship opportunities and grant writing, with the city having a staff member working on that.
Kwapis said the money could lead to more events or even hiring someone to boost downtown promotion.
The organization’s revenues were about $40,000 over the past two years, with expenses of $35,709 in 2021 and $19,104 in 2022, according to audited financial statements. The accumulated surplus at the end of 2022 was $84,176.