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'Times are hard': New parking meters, time limits worry central Edmonton business leaders

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The signs say "coming soon" but this impending arrival doesn't appear to be generating much excitement.

New parking meters along "The North Edge" of downtown Edmonton are instead being met with frustration and worry from some businesses and customers.

"Times are hard and cost of living is high and it's a little concerning that our customers are going to have to pay extra just to come here," said Sha Wang, manager of Brew and Bloom.

"Some people are going to choose which restaurant or establishment they go to based on whether they have to pay or not, or whether there's ample parking."

The City of Edmonton has decided to charge $1 an hour for parking on four streets just north of MacEwan University and Unity (formerly Oliver) Square.

Two other roads will have a two-hour limit. The changes come into effect on Jan. 15.

The CEO of Uproot Food Collective said he had no idea all this was happening until crews arrived.

"We saw them installing an EPark parking meter out in front of our building. We never had any notice, any communication. It just came out of the blue," Chris Lerohl said.

He worries the changes will encourage customers and staff to choose free parking elsewhere.

"Businesses are already on a knife's edge of survival and just bobbing their heads above water, and then to just have one more thing added, that's the worry. That's the fear," he explained.

The new pay zones are on 110, 111, 114, and 115 Streets from 105 Avenue to 106 Avenue.

The two-hour zones are on 112 and 113 Streets from 105 Avenue to 106 Avenue.

A city official said the hope is that the changes will not drive business away, and instead encourage movement, vibrancy and ultimately, more customers.

"A 2023 parking study on the above locations found many had high parking occupancy rates with the average time a stall was occupied exceeding two hours," Jenny Albers, the city's acting director of traffic operations, wrote in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.

"A combination of paid parking and time-restricted parking can free up space and reduce average parking durations so more customers can find more available parking space, and hopefully contribute to increased visits for the businesses."

Albers said the city informed the North Edge Business Improvement Area (BIA) of the changes in November and provided an update last week.

She pointed out that all EPark zones allow 15 minutes free parking and encouraged North Edge businesses to take their concerns to their BIA.

But the leader of The North Edge Business Association confirmed that the worry is already widespread. She hopes the city is willing to make adjustments.

"I'm getting concerns from a variety of members with different types of uses," said Laurene Viarobo.

"There's very specific needs that those businesses were looking for and those things weren't accommodated."

Customer Marcia Hogstead confirmed the fears of Wang and Lerohl, saying she's less likely to choose North Edge businesses once she's expected to pay for parking.

"If the City of Edmonton would like people to come downtown, they have to offer some free parking," she told CTV News Edmonton, also citing the rising cost of living.

"It seems ridiculous that we have to find a place to park, pay, and sometimes it's quite expensive."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson

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