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Free parking returning to core businesses districts - one hour, limited locations

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London will once again offer free parking in its core business districts after council overturned a recent committee recommendation to keep it at full price.

Six weeks after the ‘CORE’ promo code was discontinued in the Honk Mobile App, council decided to bring back a scaled down version of the free parking program in Downtown London, Richmond Row, Midtown, and the Old East Village (OEV).

“It was two hours, now we’re going to one,” Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis explained as he made a case to resurrect the parking incentive.

The new promotion will be limited to on-street parking and two municipal lots in OEV (Lot #1 and Lot #2) until the end of this year.

Lewis emphasized the expiration date, “We have to move away from this and look for another way to do this program, but I think there’s value right now.”

Some councillors worried funding another free parking program will create an expectation for another extension in January.

“Once we get into having people expect this from their Honk Mobile App, it’s going to be very difficult to change it,” warned Coun. Sam Trosow.

Free parking was launched during the pandemic as an economic recovery program.

Some arguments in favour of the parking incentive sparked a sidebar debate about how to describe the current state of London’s core business districts.

“I’m not proud of our core area right now. It breaks my heart to hear residents talk about how embarrassing it is,” said Coun. Susan Stevenson who represents OEV.

Downtown Coun. David Ferreira felt Stevenson’s comments weren’t helpful when discussing ways to reinvigorate the city’s core.

“The way we speak about the core area [matters],” Ferreira said. “If we were to look at the core area today, and compare it how the core area looked two years ago, it’s much, much better.”

Stevenson fired back, “There are three distinct portions of the core area and not all of them are doing well or are better.”

Coun. Hadleigh McAlister, whose ward includes the Hamilton Road BIA, urged a more positive tone.

“We’re all in this together,” McAlister emphasized. “I really want to switch the narrative from just tragedy to being focussed to triumphs. We have had triumphs.”

Council voted 11-3 to fund the one-hour free parking incentive until December 31.

The $330,000 cost will come out of the city’s Economic Development Reserve Fund, which has an uncommitted balance of about $4.2 million.

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