Old Garages, LED Lighting, a Porcine Politician
The garage was built in stages between 1906 and 1912, in a part of Glasgow that, even in those days, had a parking problem.
It’s a great building, with turn-of-the-century architecture and steelwork designed to accommodate limousines and their chauffeurs, with each car having an individual lockable cage to keep it secure.
Over the years, the garage has fallen on hard times. Although it is a “listed” building – meaning that it’s recognized as being of architectural/historic importance and, so, protected – it has been threatened with demolition several times.
Fortunately, the city and Scottish government have protected it, and the owner is now looking to refurbish it and, with minor changes, bring it back into an alternative productive use.
That set me thinking, what was the first purpose-built car-parking structure in the world?
I assumed that since America is undisputedly the home of the car as a means of mass transport, you guys would also be able to claim the first parking structure. It seems that I was wrong.
Our glorious leader, JVH, tells me that the oldest purpose-built parking structure in the U.S. went up in Chicago in 1918, more than a decade after the Glasgow Botanic Gardens Garage. It was built in the Loop Downtown for the La Salle Hotel, which was demolished in 1976 to make room for office towers. The garage itself was razed in 2005 for a condo development.
(That said, Shannon McDonald’s book, “The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form,” does reference a now-demolished structure dated 1905, but gives no details. Perhaps someone can help?)
Anyway, having done a little detective work, it would seem that London holds the record, with a purpose-built multi-level carpark dating from 1902-03, when the London Motor Garage Co. built a 200-space structure, with three floors connected by lift, in Wardour Street Soho. The building still exists, now used as a pub.
An earlier building in Newcastle, dating from 1897 and called Cooper’s Horse, Carriage, Cycle and Auto Car Repository, which was built to store cars, horses and carriages, and devoted display space for selling motor cars, but this was not a public facility.
This structure, like its Glasgow colleague, has also fallen into disrepair, but has survived, not because it is seen as an historic industrial building, but because it is built on the line of Hadrian’s Wall, and preserving the carpark will preserve part of the wall. It’s scheduled to be refurbished and re-used.
So, the current front-runner for oldest garage is Wardour Street, starting at 1902, but Glasgow runs it a close second at 1906. Unless anyone knows better, Glasgow does win, however, as the earliest ramped garage in the world.
JVH was kind enough to invite me to talk at the Parking Industry Exhibition 2014 back in March. I covered technology, and where we were up to this side of the pond. One thing that I expressed disappointment at was the failure of LED lighting to get off the ground here in the UK.
I think that even the most conservative and careful of us would have to admit that the case for LED has been made. Sure, it is expensive, in terms of upfront investment, but whole-life costs are a no-brainer, and with companies offering deals, to cover investment, I really couldn’t understand why there had been so few takers here in the UK.
The world turns, and NCP – one of the UK’s biggest carpark operators – recently announced that it will roll out LED lighting to all of its 500 sites, offering a whole-life savings of £25m and an annual reduction of 11,000 tons of CO2. Well done, NCP.
In 2012, our dumb-ass UK government passed a dumb-ass law called the Protection of Freedoms Act. One of the “freedoms” that this act protected was the right to get a fine if someone said you had parked your car on their land and owed them money.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that a landowner should have the right to protect his land from trespassers that park when they are not invited and commercial operations should be able to collect “fees due.”
The problem is that the offender is the car driver, not the car owner, and it is a massive assumption that they are one and the same person. No matter, the law changed so that landowners or their parking companies could collect the money from the owner and do this by relying on a CCTV image and sending a bill in the post – exactly what the dumbasses are now going to ban on the street (see last month’s column).
The tissue of respectability on all this was that the enforcer had to join an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) and obey its Code of Practice. The British Parking Association (BPA) set itself up as the – until now – only ATA with an appeals service run independent of the operators, which seems to decide about 50-50 between operators and motorists.
Now, a new and competing organization has appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. The Independent Parking Committee (IPC) has been approved by the government as a second ATA. Set up at the end of 2013, it has about 20 or so small parking operators as members.
The organization has no history, and it seems pretty much to be piggybacking on the work that the BPA has done to get this whole thing off the ground (although its arbitration service is in-house, rather
The BPA is struggling to balance its budget, and yet the IPC is not surprisingly offering a lower-cost service to potential members. The BPA is not happy, and I suspect that there will be tears before bedtime when some of its members opt for the lower-cost option. ... And the dumbass law …
Two years in terms of law is a blink, and as I said, the government legislated, against good advice, to enact the Protection of Freedoms Act in May 2012.
Just two years and three months later, the porcine minister responsible for this legislation is on the front page of the Daily Mail (a not-very-amusing-fantasy-comic masquerading as a newspaper) vowing to “curb the parking pirates,” i.e., those companies that use the law he created to enforce parking on private land.
I didn’t vote for them.
Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian.
Contact him at email@example.com.