If You Build it, Will They Come?


If You Build it, Will They Come?

This past July, Mexico City became the first large city in North America to abolish minimum parking requirements. In the past, as with all major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Miami and San Francisco, Mexico City required developers to build a certain number of parking spots for every square foot they built.

Building parking is expensive. The cost of constructing parking in urban areas gets passed on to renters regardless if they have a car or not.

According to Wired Magazine, a study of U.S. cities by urban planners C.J. Gabbe, of Santa Clara University, and Gregory Pierce of UCLA, shows that many renters would be OK with no parking at their homes. About 710,000 U.S. renters have parking spots they don’t use.

The price of developing property is passed to the renter, who pays on average an extra $1,700 per year for having this “I didn’t want it” parking space. Basically, each renter subsidizes the parking that might not be used by them. According to one study, in the U.S., non-car owners pay about $440 million to fund parking for others.

Lately, various articles have reported that millennials in particular are the group of people who want to rent apartments, instead of buying houses. And that they represent a group that doesn’t care about car ownership.

With car-sharing services, car ownership doesn’t make sense to a lot of these people. Yet, according to the reports, millennials actually make up the fastest growing segment of vehicle buyers. Predictions point that by 2020, they will represent about 40% of the U.S. new-car market. In 2016, the millennials purchased 4.1 million vehicles in the U.S..That is about 29% of the car buying market, according to data from J.D. Power and Associates. So GM isn’t going away just yet.

These cars have to be parked someplace. However, garages are built to last. What we build today will be here tomorrow. Does not the vision of “smart city” smart-parking and autonomous vehicles trending now invite us to be proactive in how we develop our properties and how we build garages?

It seems a few developers are thinking ahead. The garage of today isn’t the garage of the future.

The first multi-level parking garage in the U.S. was built in 1918. It was built for the Hotel La Salle, in Chicago, and was designed by Holabird and Roche. This garage was demolished in 2005. In its place today there stands a 49-story apartment tower with a multi-tiered parking garage.

Since 1918, a garage has become ubiquitous in every neighborhood. Where there is a shopping mall, there is a parking garage next to it. Where there is an office building, there is a garage adjacent. Some garages are underground, yet most of them are free-standing buildings. After all, underground parking costs about $35,000 per space, while in a multi-level parking structure it is about $25,000 per space.

Yes, we are building more parking garages. Yet, with autonomous vehicles will they be needed? Do they encourage more car ownership; in essence, if you build it, they will come? In this smart city culture, why are we building more garages? Just last month, the city of Newburyport, MA, approved a $3.7 million bond in order to pay for a new parking garage. The La Salle garage in Chicago was in use for about 87 years. How long will this new garage in Newburyport stay in use?

One of Los Angeles’ biggest developers, Rick Caruso, is dynamic and proactive on this issue. He has developed The Grove and Americana at Brand in Glendale among others. He is working with a division of Google called Intersection. He is focused on improving arrival and departure experiences in his developments.

The Grove in LA’s Fairfax district is one of the busiest LA’s Uber destinations. Thousands of people forgo driving and parking and arrive and depart from The Grove’s designated ride-sharing spot. Caruso said he is committed to spending millions to prepare his properties for autonomous vehicles. He expects that he might have to start converting his parking garages to other uses as soon as 2025 or 2030.

Thus, according to this, the Newburyport, MA, garage might see only seven years of use.  Why not build it so that it can be ready for such a conversion? 

AvalonBay Communities, which is developing a large residential complex in downtown LA, is thinking ahead. When the garage for 1,000 cars will be completed in four years, it will have features that can easily convert this ordinary garage to other uses such as apartments, shops, gym and offices.

The floors are not slanted; they are leveled. The ceilings are higher at up to 13 feet. If the garage is adjacent to the building, its design will look as the rest of the building, with the possibility of adding windows while converting it to other uses. The elevators will be placed in the middle of the building, as it is with office buildings and apartment buildings.

Yes, garages are still being built today because we are still a car-centered culture. Yet, the transportation revolution will happen sooner or later.

With car-sharing and the potential for autonomous vehicles, we in the parking industry must be proactive and plan for the future. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t work, except perhaps in the cornfields of Iowa. A visionary listens to the feedback of those for whom he is building.

Astrid Ambroziak, editor of PT’s Parknews.biz, can be reached at astrid@parkingtoday.com.







Article contributed by:
Astrid Ambroziak
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