Photo credit: Nick Stanley on Flickr CC-BY-NC-ND

A potential game-changer for downtown Kitchener

Kitchener’s exemption from parking requirements for the first 10,000 square metres of floor space could drive a surge in walkable, transit-friendly, and affordable development downtown – without every new building needing to be a massive tower.

We’ve written at length about parking minimums found in the City of Waterloo’s zoning bylaw review. But the City of Kitchener is also updating its zoning bylaws, and we finally have a draft of their parking requirements. And while parking minimums aren’t exactly abolished, they’re a big step forward.

Embedded directly within the draft parking standards are provisions for shared parking spaces – for instance, an office building and a place of worship might have different peak times of use, and could probably share a lot of their parking. These rules acknowledge that without a developer needing to apply for a special exemption.

Generally, the car parking requirements are less onerous than those of Waterloo’s draft bylaw, but are greater for bikes. Outside of downtown and ION station areas, residential units only require 1.1 parking spaces each, compared to 1.5 in Waterloo, offices require just 3 spaces per 100 square metres compared to 4, and retail 3.4 instead of 4.  Bike parking for residential developments are about on par with Waterloo’s, but quadruple to 1 bike space per unit in downtown and station areas. For non-residential uses, Kitchener would require significantly more bicycle parking than Waterloo.

Parking maximums would also apply, not just in transit station areas, but across the city. These would be about 20-40% above the minimums.

The big game changer though, is found in this clause:

In a UGC-1, UGC-3, or UGC-4 zone, an exemption from the parking spaces required in Table 5-3 may apply up to the first 10,000 m2 of gross floor area of buildings on a lot for non-residential uses, and up to the first 100 dwelling units for residential uses.

Essentially, new or repurposed buildings downtown that have less than 10,000 square metres of floor space, (or fewer than 100 units), would see no parking requirements at all. Considering that structured or underground parking costs $20,000-50,000 per space, this could greatly reduce the cost of new development and consequently, housing. It could also lead to blocks with more active frontages, since there would be less need for driveways or garage entrances if a developer opts for no parking at all.

This change will open the door to transit-supportive density, without the need for every building to be a massive high-rises. Instead, the rules favour small and medium-sized buildings that require no parking.

Take action:

To comment on the proposed zoning bylaw changes, attend one of the public drop-in sessions on June 22 or 28 (City Hall, 4-8pm), or visit the Consolidated Review of the Zoning Bylaw website.

Photo credit: Nick Stanley on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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