Car-free condo: a novel idea for downtown Toronto

A proposed downtown condo will have absolutely no parking for private motor vehicles, if City Council approves it. Instead it will only have spots for car-sharing vehicles and 315 bike parking spots. The innovative project, which will be built on University Avenue at the site of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, is going one up on the new draft parking by-law which will reduce the number of required parking spots for residences, stores and offices.

The East-York / Toronto Community Council overruled City staff, which insisted that the project goes against expertise and experience. It's uncertain what kind of expertise they are drawing on when downtown developers insist that the majority of condos downtown sell without parking:

"If you look at the evidence of what sells downtown, the majority of units under 750 square feet in the downtown core sell without parking,'' said Stephen Deveaux, a vice-president with the developer, Tribute Communities. Parking spots typically add $20,000 or more to the cost of a downtown condo.

It will be interesting to see if the market is strong for no car parking or if the staff are correct that it is still a necessity. The staff's position:

Normally, building plans follow a formula for how much parking space should be allowed; current standards, if applied to the building, would provide approximately 140 parking spaces for residents.

"To assume a residential development of the project's scale might be totally car-free runs counter to expert study and experience," the staff report stated. "Although there are many households in the downtown (area) without cars, it would be highly unlikely to find 315 of them permanently concentrated in one building."

It also stated that, "exempting the project from the city's parking standards would create a negative precedent that undermines the integrity of the parking provisions of the zoning bylaw."

Comments

Very different from other condos in Toronto.

I can think of a few people who have no car parking in their building due to the lot being sold out or a spot being sold separately. I bet these people would feel right at home.

Affordable housing, at last. Save the $20,000 from the price, and save the city, and the planet, at the same time.

At least this is building is on a subway route. So many options, including car sharing.

Hopefully staff will be singing a different tune after they see that these types of buildings can be very successful. In the downtown (and elsewhere) more and more people are discovering they can live quite comfortably in the city without a car.

When the TTC started planning the LRT for the LRT on Spadina Ave TTC staff asked for no parking in building, or MAXIMUMS set at where the planners had traditionally put minimums. But planners insisted on "minimum" parking standards; planners got their way then.

And personally I think that this is quite a positive precedent to set, not a negative one. One that strengthens the need for more bike infrastructure.

(my opinion as a full time bike commuter)

I don't think that this is a great idea. Although I don't have any issues with reserved parking for car share, or for bike parking, this is too extreme. I agree with city staff that if this undermines the current bylaw, this will cause a big problem. The builder gets to significantly reduce costs due to less excavation for underground parking, and yet I bet that this savings is not fully reflected in the selling price. Those who are foolish enough to buy into this building will find in the long run that their resale will be bad. Those who live in condos without parking can find it difficult to accommodate visitors with cars, etc.

Increasing the cost of parking overall downtown is a good idea to reduce car use, but this sory of thing might increase the demand for surface parking, which is not what we want.

The city would be better served by encouraging builders to offer more three bedroom units so that families have a shot at living downtown.

Jnyyz, I totally agree about the three bedroom units - this city seems to have a glut of one-bedrooms that offer little "upgrade path" for those that can't afford a detached house in the neighborhood.

It will be interesting to see if the high density of car-free people in such a building might attract a new commercial ecosystem - maybe Front Door Organics or one of those grocery-delivery companies might start offering bulk discounts, or more local businesses might relocate nearby to take advantage of the less mobile audience.

It's my understanding that the site can't physically support appropriate parking (unknown reasons - but likely some kind of pre-existing underground infrastructure), and thus all the hubbub. The whole think stinks of "spin" to me. Builders are calling it an environmentally positive experiment in order to direct loads of good press, which will bump up their chances of getting it approved, which is all an attempt to simply not incur losses from getting the project shut down.

It's poor planning all around really. It seems like the builders jumped the gun before a full property evaluation had been completed. One of the biggest issues at hand is that no parking closes that building to any persons (visitors or owners) with disabilities.

In the end, I'd rather not see that site turned into a condo property at all.

If the builders price the units too high few will buy, why assume that the pricing models are the same when its a different type of building? If it's priced the same as the building across the street where they're allowed cars and bicycles then they'll lose out. However, if they can work in a way to "sneak" past zoning restrictions and cut construction costs then they can under-cut the competitor and offer a lower price. Maybe the value is the same, but you can get into a condo without having to commit to more debt. Though surrounding property values will drop.. and there can be other issues with that.

Yeah, parking for visitors at all condos is crap because many condo's are a poor fit for entertaining guests (sorry condo owners).

The three bedroom unit market is all out in the burbs. The condo builders have no way to compete against the detached low-density housing, most families would rather have a house(way more space) than a condominium. Especially when the logistics of car commuting are catered to everywhere.

I don't see why a handicapped person couldn't live there, many don't own a car and just use special cabs/ttc...

I think we can all deal with one, just one, condo not having car parking. If we cannot then maybe there is something wrong with us.