Big City, Poor Little Me


Big City, Poor Little Me

 I live in crowded town near an enormous, highly populated city. I like to pretend I live in a small town by getting to know my neighbors and staying well within the bubble of my day-to-day two-mile radius. I know my postal carrier and the staff at the grocery store, drugstore and my favorite eateries. 
When I have to leave my bubble, I feel as if I’ve traveled a long way and entered a completely different city, but that’s just mental, I know. 
Like it or not, I live in a busy, noisy place, but am fortunate to have found a pocket that allows me to enjoy my delusions. Those have been severely challenged lately in small part because of a rash of daylight burglaries; and in large, part because of the gigantic mall that has just been built/remodeled a few miles away.
What was once a large and thriving mall had deteriorated to just ho-hum after 40 years, but has now been completely remodeled, redesigned and renewed in every way possible. There are new stores, many of them of the high-end category, new restaurants, and new parking structures, to say the least. We have new heavy traffic patterns on the weekends and new fears of the impact this will have on our neighborhood.
Naturally, our municipal leaders wanted to create income for our city, so an enormous mall is pretty certain to bring in income and tax revenue. What it’s also bringing in is the traffic I mentioned and a whole lot of people who don’t actually live here. As a long-time resident and homeowner, I have concerns about hundreds and thousands of people from nearby cities dropping in for a few hours on Saturday and then heading out.
My point of view is that people who come here to shop might not be as committed to the quality of my community as I am. They’re here to have a good time, whatever that means to them, and for some of them, it’s going to mean littering, being disruptive, and driving while under the influence. Most are probably just fine, but it is the few who are going to act out that I’d rather not tempt with department stores and restaurant chains. 
But the deed is done. I live here for economic reasons that parallel the economic reality of the mall itself, so I’m not going to kick against the inconsequential. If I could live anywhere, it would be somewhere rural. I’d miss the sushi, but I’d finally get to have chickens. Now, here, I am in a town with a gigantic and fully revitalized mall, so I will enjoy the new Nordstrom, and I will enjoy its very lovely parking structure. 
I’ve been watching it go up over the last year or so, and have had an opportunity to use it several times now. I make no secret of my ambivalence toward parking structures, but it’s not any easy task anymore to find a spot in the surface lots of this mall. If I’m just running in to buy my daughter a new shirt and not planning to spend the whole day browsing, I have to streamline the process. 
This need has led me to the perfect parking spot. 
Knowing where to park is an important part of maintaining my small-town delusions. If I can circumvent traffic and congestion, and run my errands without feeling like I’ve just taken over a small country, I’m content. So I drive the side streets to the mall and go straight to the parking structure – where I take the ramps up and up to the quiet of the third level. From there, I walk about 30 yards into a central location of the mall itself.
A little fact-checking on the parking structure led me to some interesting details: It has 1,950 stalls and was built for Simon Property Group for $21.2 million by Bomel Construction. It was designed by Walker Parking Consultants, and has one level at grade and three above grade. The heights of the floors vary: The first is 18 feet, the second is 14 feet and the third is eight feet. The bottom level is 18 feet, so that semi-trucks can reach the loading dock. Three pedestrian bridges link the garage to the upper floors of the mall.
My perfect parking spot gets me just about as close as possible to the stores I frequent most. The third level is never full – and I don’t need the car counters to tell me that, even though they are helpful. This parking structure has a digital sign out front that tells how many spots are available on each level – often in the hundreds on weekdays. 
(Although I don’t know what it looks like on a Saturday, because that’s when I’m home fretting about the strangers pouring into my town for Zara and Forever 21.) 
It’s only a matter of time before other people give up on the fruitless search on surface lots and my parking oasis is inundated, but that’s OK – I think there is enough parking for everybody.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at
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