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Planned 500-spot parking garage on Baker Street might be in trouble

Bedrock, Bill 108 and the city's own environmental targets seen as obstacles in getting the garage built
20160421 BAKER STREET ts
GuelphToday file photo

Plans for a 500-space underground parking garage on Baker Street could be up in the air.

The underground garage is supposed to be part of the Baker Street redevelopment coming in the next few years and is part of the city's parking master plan.

But a report from city staff said the layer of bedrock and other financial factors could make the underground garage cost prohibitive.

The provincial Bill 108 could result in less development charges being collected, resulting in more of the cost falling on the city.

The report also expresses concern over a conflict that building a parking garage has with the city's goals to reduce emissions and get more people using transit.

"Site investigation has also identified the presence of bedrock near the surface which would drastically increase the cost of construction if additional underground levels were required to accommodate this number of parking spaces on the site," states the report.

City staff is recommending that "alternative shared parking arrangements" be investigated, where nearby residential spaces in future complexes could be used as commercial/public spaces during the workday and residential space at night."

The staff report goes to council on July 22.

Staff also points out that a parking structure on the site "may contradict" the city's goals of becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy corporation and net zero carbon city by 2050.

The city is trying to get more people using transit and get less cars downtown.

If city council approves the recommendation, staff would come back with recommendations in the final design phase of the Baker Street redevelopment.

Mayor Cam Guthrie would like to know how much more the structure would cost in light of the new information about the bedrock.

"The report doesn't indicate to me what that (extra) cost is. So I have nothing to compare it to," the mayor said. "Without that comparison I can't make an educated decision."

As for the goal of more people on transit and less cars downtown to help meet the city's environmental targets, Guthrie had a question for staff.

"But what about economic development? A lot of the parking capacity issues that we are addressing and have been addressing these past few years is all around economic development," Guthrie said.

While he backs the city's environmental goals, "we cannot ignore the economic development portion, which may require people from outside Guelph to be driving into our downtown core.

"We already have several hundred people working in the downtown core that are on waiting lists for spots."