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City closing two parking lots as part of waterfront project

Closure of downtown lots will have 'direct effect' on nearby businesses, restaurant owner says

The city will decommission two downtown parking lots by July 5, which has caused frustration with at least one local business owner.

Municipal parking lots 8 and 12, located near Studabakers Beachside restaurant, are being closed as part of the city’s waterfront redevelopment project. The property was sold to FRAM Building Group as part of the project earlier this year, and the city was able to lease the lands until they were required by FRAM to begin remediation work on the site.

A staff report stated, “FRAM is required to remediate the property that they purchased to allow the lands to be redeveloped for residential and commercial uses, and to create part of the planned urban square in the vicinity of Mississaga Street East/Centennial Drive intersection.”

The lots were initially set up for temporary pay-and-display public parking in 2018 following the city’s purchase of 70 Front St. N.

“Closing Lot 12 across from Studabakers is going have a direct effect on Fionn MacCool’s, the Champlain Hotel, the LCBO, the Legion — we all use that lot for our customers and staff,” Studabakers owner Joe Winacott told OrilliaMatters.

While he thinks developing downtown Orillia will bring business opportunities for everyone, Winacott said reduced parking options will have the opposite effect.

“Building down here would be great; it’s going to bring more people down. The more things you have downtown, it brings more customers and more walk-by traffic for every business down here, but if they have nowhere to park, they’re not going to come down, and that’s the biggest problem with downtown,” he said.

“Indirectly, it’s going to affect the rest of the downtown because now our customers and our staff are going to need to find alternate parking for our establishment. We’re scrambling right now, so I had to go uptown and buy some lots from the permit parking lots for our staff, and once again that’s going to eat into other visitors that aren’t going to have parking anywhere.”

In a news release, the city noted alternative paid parking is available in municipal lots 1, 2, 5 and 10, and free parking is available in the waterfront lots.

“The city continues to investigate other parking options. A Waterfront and Downtown Area Traffic and Parking Study has taken place and is currently being reviewed by staff,” the release stated. “The study will include recommendations related to parking for council’s consideration, such as the number of parking lots, spaces and their locations, along with parking management strategies, such as pricing, timing and availability. It is anticipated that this study will be provided for council’s consideration within the next few months.”

Mayor Steve Clarke sympathized with the potential impacts of closing the two lots, but said they were always a temporary measure since being set up as paid lots in 2018.

“Even though they were a temporary measure, and even though that was communicated, I do understand that not having (those lots) going forward can be frustrating,” he told OrilliaMatters. “It was communicated … that they were just temporary and that they would be part of the (waterfront redevelopment project).”

According to the staff report, the most recent communications on the lot closures were sent out June 10.

Clarke said the development slated for downtown will bring many new residents and business opportunities to the area.

“What I’m hoping everybody bears in mind is that this project is going to transform that area and bring all kinds of business to the businesses in that area. In the medium term and long term, businesses in that area are really going to benefit,” he said.

“You’re going to have hundreds of new residents living right in that area, who will have their own parking (and) will bring vibrancy to all the businesses in that area. There will be parking for any commercial space. That area will be a drawing card and there will be parking provisions within the project.”

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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