By Kim Askew
Recent concern over how to invigorate Sparks Street and draw more business to the downtown area seems to miss a crucial point. A drive to Centretown rapidly becomes a negative experience when you can’t find a place to park your car.
There’s certainly parking available, but try finding a meter after work or a lot that won’t charge a fortune for a half-hour stay. Likely, you’ll find yourself navigating an obstacle course of one-way streets, no-left turn lanes, and no stopping zones until you finally seize upon a place to leave your car.
There’s parking further south, in surface lots and in the multi-storey garages run by the city on Nepean and Laurier. But it seems the further you go uptown, the leaner the pickings.
A weekday morning drive along Queen Street reveals at least three “Lot Full” notices posted at the tops of ramps under commercial and government buildings. The large street level lot at Queen and Kent will disappear if a proposed office tower is built.
One manager of a private lot says the city has lost over 1,500 parking spaces to new building developments.
Increased demand means you pay more for the spot you find. The All-Park lot at Queen and O’Connor offers 70 spaces – at $3.50 for a half hour. Others require a deposit of up to $15 – with precious little change returned after only an hour or two.
For much of the year, Ottawa is too cold for a pleasant stroll from a distant parking lot through an outdoor shopping district like Sparks Street. Hence our reliance on cars and our penchant for indoor shopping malls where we can do all our errands under one roof. Even when the weather is mild, many people accustomed to convenience prefer the Byward Market, where two reasonably priced municipal lots together offer 759 parking spaces steps away from shops, restaurants, and offices.
The key to invigorating Centretown is making it an appealing destination for shoppers. So offer adequate, convenient, reasonably priced parking, and they will come.