Wayne Guy’s prognosis for Yellowknife is grim.
“It is my belief the downtown is dying,” said the owner of Guy architects at a city council meeting on July 8.
The downtown core is dominated by huge tracts of empty space, he said. The problem is likely to worsen as old buildings are torn down and “the economics of rebuilding aren’t there.”
With a vision to revitalize and increase population density in the downtown core, Guy asked council to approve his proposed miniature-condominium development on 54 Street.
The condo would be divided into 12 micro-units of roughly 320 square feet, which is about as large as the interior of a standard school bus. Residents would have access to two cars that would be provided by the condominium.
“The idea would be to open it up to millennials and snowbirds,” said Guy. “All of a sudden these young people can afford a unit because we can put this at well under $200,000.”
Car-sharing in the condo would reduce the need for parking spaces in the building, while allowing tenants more cost-effective access to transportation, said Guy.
For the project to proceed, the city would have to approve changes to its development bylaws.
The city currently limits the number of parking spots developers can reserve for car-share programs. A building in town can reserve one shared spot for a maximum of eight units, which means the proposed 12-unit condo would not be allowed.
Guy is suggesting the city’s parking bylaw be amended to allow one car-share space for up to 30 units.
He cited statistics from Wilson Wood, a senior executive of a successful car sharing program in several major Canadian cities called Communauto, which state that one car in a program like this can provide for the transportation needs of up to 30 people.
“I think it could be a game changer,” said Guy. “The noted provisions will make densification possible without contributing to the erosion due to the need for additional parking.”
City councillors were generally supportive. Coun. Steven Payne even went so far as to call the condo-owned ride sharing idea “genius.”
Coun. Shauna Morgan and Coun. Robin Williams questioned if ride sharing, though an interesting concept, would be sufficient to meet the needs of residents.
“One of the fears is that the price point would attract people but the reality sets in for the need for some additional (parking) spots,” said Williams. “I think for that many folks or that many units, the reality or likelihood is that they will have a car, or a certain portion of them may or may not have them.”
There were also doubts about the feasibility of reviewing Guy’s recommendations in a timely manner as he said he hopes to start construction this summer.
After much back and forth between city councillors and administration as to whether this could be done in a timely manner, it was agreed that parking bylaw could be easily changed to include “multi-attached” units for car shares.
City administration said it would look into the proposed bylaw changes before the next council meeting on July 22.
Guy said amending the parking bylaw is an important city-building initiative.
“Current parking bylaws contribute to the erosion of urban fabric, the lowering of density downtown, increasing under utilized land,” said Guy.
His vision for the downtown core includes small and affordable condos with ride share programs that would increase population density without the need for more parking.
“You’ll have sustainable and engaged downtown neighbourhoods and you start to develop a community,” said Guy. “More people downtown means a more vibrant urban environment.”