Peter Oliver, president of the newly established Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, said the area's walkability has fostered a stronger sense of community. Photo by Michelle Hofer/for CREB®Now

Pushing the parking optional concept

Builders believe buyers will eventually see benefits of sans auto

Condo buyers in Calgary’s Beltline will soon see vehicle ownership as a peripheral requirement, but it will still take some time for the current mindset to change, says a developer who brought the notion of “parking optional” to Calgary.

The Beltline – which stretches from 14th Street S.W. to the Elbow River and the rail tracks south to 17th Avenue, plus the Stampede Grounds – is one of Calgary’s hottest and most densified communities. And many new condo buildings, first planned several years ago, are just now starting to spring up despite the downturn.

Although the N3 development in East Village received plenty of press recently for not including parking, it was Toronto-based Lamb Development Corp.’s 6th and Tenth project in the Beltline that first brought the concept to Calgary, said president and CEO Brad Lamb.

“When we first bought the land, we floated the idea of the one-bedroom (suites) not getting parking … we fought a little with the City about that,” said Lamb, adding that providing at least some parking required digging the deepest residential garage in Calgary.

“It was a hugely expensive thing. Even then, we said if you’re buying a 518-square-foot, one-bedroom below the 18th floor, you can’t have parking. Once we did it, the next two or three projects (in the Beltline) started offering parking as optional on smaller units.”

The Beltline’s close proximity to downtown makes having a vehicle optional for many who can get around fine either by foot, transit (the established LRT passes through on the east and the current Green Line plan calls for the future north-southeast track to run down part of 10th Avenue), or taking the ever-expanding cycle track network.

For Calgarians who do have occasional auto needs there’s also the option to rent a vehicle or sign out out a Car2Go, said Lamb.

The challenge is, “buyers want parking; investors don’t care,” he added. “I don’t think you’ll be successful in a large scale in Calgary without offering parking to some of the apartments … (but) people will come to terms with the idea.”

Park Point near Central Memorial Park, built by Vancouver’s Qualex-Landmark, is another development where parking stalls are optional in some cases.

“We do sell certain plans or groups of units without the option of having a parking stall due to limited parking,” said Jordan Beach, vice-president of sales and service.

“These typically sell to the younger demographic or those who don’t consider a car to be a necessity with all the amenities within walking distance.”

That said, Beach confirms “parking is indeed a selling feature, especially with the mid-age to older demographic.”

Going sans parking can save on purchase costs. Beach noted stalls are usually valued between $30,000 and $40,000.

For now, Lamb said, it’s still a gradual process getting Calgarians used to a parking-optional home. His latest Beltline project, The Orchard, is a two-phase tower north of the Stampede Grounds that will have sufficient parking for its more than 400 suites (construction is set to begin next year).

Peter Oliver, president of the newly established Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, has lived in the area since 2003, and praises the idea of optional parking.

“Calgary is a very vehicle-dependent city and people come here and appreciate it because it doesn’t require a car (to live here),” he says. “It’s often quicker to get somewhere by foot or bike.”

The cycle track system is seen as a commuter service, but Oliver added it’s invaluable for Beltline residents crossing the neighbourhood. And the new Green Line, “has the potential to reach through the centre of the Beltline and give LRT access within a couple blocks of the neighbourhoods.”

Being so walkable, Oliver said, has given Beltline “a strong sense of community. It’s become less of a transient neighbourhood and more of a long-term choice for more and more people.”

4 thoughts on “Pushing the parking optional concept

  1. No Parking in the building is not for me. I wonder why the externalities are not considered in the city making such decisions. Anyone trying to park in the beltline area now can see the difficulty with too few available parking spaces on the streets in many blocks. Activities drawing people visiting to the area to see friends or take part in the commercial activities are going to find it harder to park. Bonus for the meter maids.
    Those residents who can’t find a place to park will use other neighbourhoods to park their cars, confusing established neighbourhoods who will react requesting to have to have permitted parking for residents only.
    The whole concept is riding on the back of temporary housing, as the units are sure to be found to be too small and insufficient for more than a couple of years causing rapid turnover in the neighbourhood. Great for investors who with to rent the units, but a foul up for other residents.
    Is the future of Calgary really to create denser and more transient neighbourhoods? I guess so according to this policy. Great for investors, not so great for owners in the neighbourhood.
    Its a pretty big experiment in lowering the bar that if it continues one can expect that the value of parking spaces in existing buildings will increase substantially as they become relatively more rare.
    It is my opinion that city should have stuck to its previous limits, or had replacement parking made available if the site could not accomodate it.

    1. I’m someone that lives down here in sunalta and I’ve thought about not having my car. If I didn’t work in the industrial park I’d put an effort into selling my jeep. I could rent a jeep whenever I wanted to take a trip to the mountains. Loyalty programs at rental car companies make it reasonable. Car2go is a decent option in the city.

      I also would say that it is not transient. Yes there are homeless people in certain areas but most of them are actually nice people, bottle pickers and a pan handlers aren’t bad of people. Treat people well and they’ll treat you the same. I’ve had a homeless person return my car keys personally because he knew me and what I drove, nothing missing not even the change. Went for a 3 hour walk today to do beaker head and the neighbourhood was bustling. It’s a vibrant happy neighbourhood.

    2. Frank, I think that the “transient” model you’re talking about is the goal of a neighbourhood like the Beltline. Although transient doesn’t really describe it. There are a lot of people that are realizing that a car is not essential to life; it’s just essential to life where you don’t have a complete community.

      Fortunately, those in the suburbs have hundreds of years before this type of density will come to them, so you will probably never have to worry about it. Calgary’s percentage of bike commuters are rising, and our transit options are increasing, so a vehicle worth thousands of dollars, plus hundreds each month in insurance, is no longer associated with the cost of living. That is a positive, as the investment in a vehicle, gasoline and insurance returns very little to the Canadian economy, leaving more spending money for businesses in our city.

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