Built it and they will come


Built it and they will come

I was reading a blog post from the UK this morning. The writer was bemoaning the fact that parking on “high streets”  (main streets) is not readily available but at the same moment holds the position that parking is not why people to go a certain area, its the fancy shops, clubs, theaters, and the like.

He noted that the big shopping centers on the edge of town did in fact have huge parking areas, but that people wouldn’t go there if the center itself wasn’t attractive.

I have long been a proponent of that famous line from a movie “If you build it, they will come.”  I have been told it was simply a line in Field of Dreams and doesn’t fit in the real world.

Balderdash. People park in lots 10 blocks away and pay $20 for the privilege to see Taylor Swift at the Hollywood Bowl and don’t bat an eye. They pay more to park their car than an outfield tickets costs at Dodger Stadium. Plus they walk half a mile to get to their seats. The bigger the attraction, the less important the parking.

So back to our high street problem. I’m told that on many high streets parking is nonexistent. Even if there were trendy clubs, restaurants, shops, and the like, there is no place for someone to park. Let’s review the bidding. Most downtown areas of British (or American, for that matter) cities are relatively small. Perhaps 10 or 20 square blocks. Once you get outside that area, you can find parking, and its usually cheap and easy.

So, since Taylor or the Dodgers seldom play downtown Winchester, Windsor, or Cambridge, how does the city or the merchants get people to walk those four or five blocks. Whatever it is, it has to be really REALLY good.

The stores in the shopping center are required to kick in to a fund to provide entertainment, maintenance, security, and whatnot at the center. They hire full time marketing folks to come up with ideas that are blockbusters. Most of the centers are awash with money that is used to ensure that people WANT to come to the movies, restaurants, shops, or to just watch the people.

How many high streets or main streets for that matter focus on what it takes to bring people downtown rather than complaining that there isn’t enough parking. People leave downtowns and travel to centers that have been built to look like downtowns with cosy lanes and quaint buildings. Does this make sense to you?

Get some bright marketing folks. Infuse your city with the warmth and culture that people want. And I’ll guarantee you that people with forget the parking excuse and be there. By the way, once the people start coming, reasonable parking policy and parking space will follow.

Build it and they will come.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. Perfect example of the one “truth” about parking that we can’t avoid. Our business is a world wide multi-billion $ enterprise (probably more like “trillions” if we include the the “value” of “free” parking), and parking has an impact on almost everything in our lives. Even if you don’t drive, the cost of the things you consume is impacted in one way or the other by the cost of transportation, and at some point that transportation involves parking. The flip side of that is the fact that in and of itself parking has almost no value whatsoever, the value is determined solely by demand which is created by things over which we have little or no control. That little dirt lot located 1/2 mile from the Arena is just am empty/vacant piece of dirt one day, but when Taylor Swift comes to town then all of a sudden it’s worth at least $20 to every car headed to that concert.

    Anybody that thinks people aren’t willing to walk a reasonable distance, even when the destination is in high demand has obviously never been to Disney. And if you’re one of those people who’s never been then trust me when I say that a large % of those people are not regular “walkers”, nor are they people that would typically pay $17+ to park and walk a distance equal to multiple City blocks. I’m not saying every downtown needs to be on the same level as Disney, but the Disney parking lot and walking requirements are proof positive of JVH’s point.

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