Available Resources: Getting Better Use Out of Privately Owned Parking
For decades, the search for parking has been an endemic part of modern life, as much a part of one’s day as work or reading the news. Whether curbside or in lots, finding a convenient parking space is always a source of satisfaction. During the COVID lockdowns, parking spaces were easy to come by, but now that trend has more than reversed and cities are seeing an even greater demand than usual for parking spaces. Even with the boom in telecommuting and online shopping, more cars seem to be taking up precious public parking spaces.
With the demand for places to stop as intense as ever, the supply of public parking spots, either curbside or in lots, has grown significantly, creating stress for busy drivers. But thanks to the aforementioned rise in telecommuting and online shopping, we see how private businesses, offices, and residential properties all have parking spots they could use to alleviate this pressure while also monetizing unused assets.
Property owners can turn their parking facilities into revenue generators in a number of ways, using the space as a flexible source for community, beautification, green investment, and of course public parking. A little creative thinking can turn an unused asset into an active generator of excitement, income, and more.
Unused parking areas offer the advantage of flexibility. An empty space can serve any number of purposes on a given day. On most days, for example, curbside parking in a commercial neighborhood or near a park or other public recreation area could double as community space. Farmers’ markets, craft fairs, art shows, and more could easily occupy spaces that used to be set aside for cars. Not only would this attract more foot traffic and potential customers to the local businesses, but these community events could become destinations for tourists and the media, drawing attention to and revitalizing neighborhoods.
Business on the Move
Unused parking spaces could be used to extend the footprint of businesses. Restaurants and stores could turn their empty parking into outdoor eating areas (especially desirable during the pandemic) or special display areas for new stock. As with the community options above, this will make for livelier, more unique neighborhoods that draw more interest and commerce.
And as food trucks and pop-up shops gain popularity, these mobile businesses could set up in unused curbside or parking lot spaces, generating revenue for the city or property owner while expanding their reach and flexibility. These temporary businesses could serve as pilot programs for new business owners to test out their strategies and products without committing to a permanent location, or new opportunities for property owners to invest.
Parking spots also make excellent spaces for public fitness, especially in parking lots or on quieter streets. The outdoor location and flat surface is great for any number of exercise routines, including tai chi, morning yoga, CrossFit, aerobics, and more. Multifamily residential properties could free up spaces for jogging, biking, or skating. Such repurposed fitness spaces would become places for people in busy urban areas to mingle, socialize, and stay healthy without moving too far from their place of work. So long as the comfort of others is carefully considered, cities could see a surge in interest in exercise.
Greening the City
Though cars still rule the streets, especially in the United States, a newfound focus on walkable and public-transit-reliant cities is part of a worldwide effort to combat climate change. With the number of cars increasing, more could certainly be done. Parking facility owners could contribute by turning empty parking spaces into sources of green energy or greenhouse offsets. Depending on location, property owners could install everything from smaller wind turbines to solar panels that provide renewable electricity, or set up portable gardens to beautify their neighborhoods while creating more clean oxygen. The cities of the future could feature walkable garden roofs or fields of solar panels hiding the pleasantly shaded rows of cars beneath, for those who need to travel beyond the reach of public transit.
Of course, property owners who invested in parking spaces need not eliminate those spaces entirely, especially if everyone else is making room for gardens and pop-up shops. With fewer people going into the office and to the store in the age of telecommuting and online shopping, certain types of properties are seeing much less parking use. These property owners are free to turn this space into paid public parking through the use of an app.
Smart parking apps could let owners of parking lots or individual spaces turn their unused spots into sources of profit by allowing visitors to park there for a fee. Spillover from public spaces and proximity to their destinations could make private properties incredibly lucrative sources of revenue where before there were empty concrete lots.
As public parking areas fill up with greater traffic, property owners can become the new source of paid public parking, which may even be preferable to drivers for their central locations and improved security.
There is no such thing as useless space in a city. Anyone who owns or even has a business adjacent to a parking spot has the chance to benefit from the incredible versatility an open piece of street offers in a busy location. Until our towns and urban centers transition into the walkable and public-transit-reliant cities of tomorrow, we have a unique opportunity to leverage automobile culture into flexible, profitable assets.
Parking spaces can be sources of community bonding, public fitness, commerce, tourism, and more. They can be devoted to the common good and provide income for property owners and help catch spillover parking. By alleviating the stresses of a changing world, we can optimize our surroundings to provide whatever we need.
Jeremy Zuker is the co-founder of WhereiPark, a technology company that enables multifamily residential and commercial property owners to discover new revenue sources through innovative solutions that leverage unused parking spaces. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org