Three more years for another Farhi Holdings 'temporary' parking lot

A parking lot at 193 Queens Ave. in London, Ont. is seen Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (Daryl Newcombe / CTV News)

Council granted another downtown surface parking lot an extension, despite planning policies that encourage development on those properties.

In operation since 2007, Farhi Holdings sought permission to temporarily operate the lot at 193 Queens Ave. for three more years.

“At what point do we start to have conversations with these land owners and say that we don’t routinely renew the temporary parking exemptions?” asked Councillor Stephen Turner.

So-called ‘temporary’ parking lots face frequent criticism from heritage advocates for tying-up prime locations for high-rise buildings and increasing development pressure on heritage properties.

In the case of 193 Queens Ave., however, City Hall was searching for a developer to build a highrise and public parking garage on the municipal parking lot next door (185 Queens Ave.) until council paused the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process in the spring.

“Proposals were being put forward for this to be a downtown parking development, and that was frustrated by the city itself deciding not to do that,” Councillor Phil Squire reminded his colleagues.

Earlier this year, council renewed three temporary lots owned by Farhi Holdings behind Richmond Row.

Councillor Steve Lehman said the proximity of the lot on Queens Avenue to Dundas Place makes it a critical part of pandemic recovery.

“This is the wrong time to make a significant change in that area. We can’t cut the legs out from the merchants and businesses along Dundas Street,” Lehman said.

There remains significant uncertainty, however, about the demand for downtown parking post-pandemic.

“The parking utilization data we have is over four years old now, and that’s not ideal to make decisions on,” admitted Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan.

The Downtown Parking Strategy determined the area around the parking lot had an 81 per cent utilization rate in 2017.

On Tuesday council voted 10-4 (Van Holst absent) to grant permission for the three-year extension.

Morgan emphasized that council may be in a stronger position to make a decision in 2024.

“I think we can revisit it at a time when we have better data.”