Forest Hill BIA looks for thoughts on lot

[attach]6817[/attach]Which would you rather have at a busy midtown intersection: a surface-area parking lot with 55 spaces, or a two-level retail building with underground parking for up to 90 cars?

That’s what the Forest Hill Village BIA wants to know.

Chair Peter McClelland says the Toronto Parking Authority plans to renovate the existing public lot at Spadina Road and Thelma Avenue as it doesn’t meet the area’s parking needs.

“On any weekday it’s difficult to get in there,” McClelland says. “Quite often there are people sitting in the parking lot waiting for someone to move out, and there’s congestion at Spadina and Thelma while people stop illegally to run into the bank or over to the Starbucks.”

Two years ago the parking authority purchased a house on the lot’s north side, and announced plans to expand the lot by demolishing it.

“We’ve been wrestling with the [parking authority] ever since,” McClelland says. “There’s a greater need for additional parking than their plans are providing.”

This is not the first time the city’s parking authority has proposed a controversial development on the site. In 2004, local residents successfully defeated a proposal to sell the land to a condo developer, which would have given the parking authority control of its underground lot.

Upon hearing the BIA’s concerns Forest Hill councillors Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc encouraged McClelland to conduct a survey to learn the public’s opinion of this latest issue, he says.

“It doesn’t mean the [parking authority] is not going ahead with this surface lot,” he says. “It just means we’re entertaining the thought of changing the plan.”

McClelland says his association is concerned that an underground parking lot would not be used as often as surface parking, citing a pair of lots on Delisle Court, one block north of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue, as examples.

“That intersection has a condominium with public parking underground, and a surface lot across the street,” he says. “The surface lot gets utilized more than the underground parking.”

McClelland says he favours a two-level parking facility regardless.

“With the congestion in the parking lot and the congestion on the roadway outside the parking lot, Spadina can often get backed up,” he says. “The underground parking lot would create an entrance and an exit from Spadina, which would relieve the parking congestion problems on Thelma.”

The surveys were mailed to residents in late February.

While there is no formal proposal for a structure, the survey includes simple concept drawings of what the site might look like with a surface lot or with an underground facility.

In addition to asking residents which option they prefer, the survey asks residents how often they visit Forest Hill Village and when; how often they use public parking; and what types of additions would encourage them to visit the area.

“If the survey suggests that people recognize the need for more parking, and the two-storey commercial lot doesn’t upset them … It’s our understanding that TPA would be agreeable to that,” McClelland says.