Exchange District residents are upset they're losing their decades-old street-parking passes because the area is booming.
The Winnipeg Parking Authority has confirmed this week the annual parking passes -- which cost residents $25 a year to park free at meters or in one- and two-hour restriction zones in the city -- is being scrapped at the end of August for residents in the Exchange District to encourage more parking turnover in the area.
John Giavedoni, president of the Residents of the Exchange District, said the parking-permit program has always given area residents the first priority for parking in their area of the downtown.
"Why are we being treated differently than residents who don't live downtown?" Giavedoni said on Wednesday.
"The only difference from other areas is we have parking meters downtown and others have a sign saying there's a one- or two-hour parking limit.
"They basically are saying we don't want residents to park on the street downtown."
Exchange District condo owner Justin Friesen said he will consider moving elsewhere in the city -- and he knows he is not alone.
"This is ridiculous," Friesen said.
"It totally contradicts what the city is doing to get people to live downtown. There's so few people living downtown I don't understand why they don't keep the parking permits in place and just raise the price.
"I really don't understand the rationale behind this. It puts more pressure on me to consider getting a house and move from the downtown."
The city's parking authority began consulting with residents and business groups in 2011 about parking problems in the Exchange District.
Randy Topolniski, chief operating officer of the Winnipeg Parking Authority, said 130 residents will lose their $25-per-year passes at the end of August because more turnover is needed to aid businesses, cultural institutions and educational facilities.
"It's not discouraging people (from living there)," Topolniski said. "You have cultural, education, residential and businesses. I think this mostly is supporting the balance between all these groups to help the area become an extremely vibrant community."
Topolniski said area residents were given a year to look for alternative parking.
He said the city is setting up a pilot project that will cost residents $100 per month to get two hours of free parking each day on secondary streets in the area as well as overnight and long-term parking on three streets with underused parking spots.
But Giavedoni said those streets -- Alexander, Pacific and Galt avenues -- are farther north than most condo dwellers are living.
"They are also dark -- I wouldn't leave a vehicle there at midnight and walk here," he said.
Giavedoni said previous the parking authority head, David Hill, always told him how the parking permits helped area residents by allowing them to access areas of the Exchange with their vehicles the same way residents in other areas of the city do.
"David Hill looked at the parking pass as being a positive for the area," he said.
"It allows us to frequent places in your neighbourhood and not pay attention to meters."
Brian Timmerman, executive director of the Exchange District BIZ, said the shortage of parking is hurting area businesses.
"We found the streets on the east side of the Exchange were running at overcapacity and filled 100 per cent of the time from morning to midnight," Timmerman said.
"The chances were slim of you finding a spot on the street if you wanted to go to a business. Residents would leave a car on the street for a week and the spot would never become free."