Apocalyptic parking

There’s plenty to say about Parkview Hospital’s expansion up north and contraction on State Boulevard, but first, I wanted to address another angle of the proposed Shoppes on Broadway (sits plan shown above).

Why do all new retail developments look like suburban strip malls? Why is the parking lot almost twice as large as the footprint of the building?

A major reason is that every 180 square feet of retail space built in Fort Wayne requires its own parking space.

So the Phase I building at the top with 6,050 sq.ft. of space requires 34 parking spaces. And the Phase II building at the bottom with 10,200 sq.ft. of space requires 57 parking spaces.

The law doesn’t care what kind of stores are in the building. The stores could be low traffic or high traffic. There could be on-street parking, nearby garages or an abundance of pedestrian traffic. You still need a parking space for every 180 square feet of store.

But how often do you see a parking lot so full that you cannot find a space? Maybe, just maybe, the lot fills up on the day after Thanksgiving. But for the rest of the year, the lots are seldom more than half full. It’s parking built for the apocalypse and not for normal day-to-day shopping.

Not only are these hugs empty parking lots expensive, they separate stores from each other, making walking or biking unpleasant and sometimes dangerous.

We shouldn’t seek laws that force developers to create retails centers that shoppers would avoid. Instead, we should seek to loosen the existing, overly strict mid-20th-century zoning laws that are slowly dismantling our urban fabric by forcing suburban parking on inner-city blocks. The Shoppes on Broadway development is a great example of why the city of Fort Wayne should not just ease the rules for downtown development, but also expand such freedoms to other center-city neighborhoods. Downtown isn’t the only part of town that needs help.

Note to BMV: This is how the voting age works

If we had believed the workers at the Waynedale Bureau of Motor Vehicles, my son would not be voting in the primary next week.

They kept insisting that 17-year-olds cannot vote in the primary if they turn 18 before the general election in November.

But the following is from the Indiana Secretary of State’s Web site:

Q: I’m turning 18 right before the election. When can I register? When can I vote?

If you are turning 18 before or on the next general election date, you can register. You can vote in both the primary and general election, even if you are not 18 on the primary election date. However, you will not be eligible to vote on school board members, political party precinct committeemen, or political party state convention delegates elected at the primary election. (emphasis mine)

Are BMV workers not trained on the rules of voter eligibility? How many other eligible voters have they turned away?

‘Urban excitement is possible close to home’

This comment by Michael Bates of BatesLine in Tulsa was too good to be ignored:

Two generations have been raised to see the tidy segments of the suburbs as normal and the city as a messy mix that needs sorting out. That’s starting to change, and a significant number of people have experienced the pleasures of urban living, either directly, or vicariously through TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends. (And it could be argued that the appealing depiction of urban life on those programs was made possible by Giuliani’s cleanup of New York in the ’90s.)

I think the starting point is for cities like Fort Wayne and Tulsa to create and preserve urban places for the many who already know they want to live there. As these areas thrive, others will see that urban excitement is possible close to home, not just on the East Coast or in Europe. Over time there may be enough demand to redevelop badly aging post-war suburban neighborhoods in a new urbanist fashion.

Politics still matters: You need councilors and planning commissioners with the courage and vision to approve a pilot project for form-based codes or special zoning with design guidelines to protect traditional neighborhood development from suburban-style redevelopment.

But mostly you need entrepreneurial types willing to reuse old buildings in traditional neighborhoods, and others who are willing to build new in a traditional style. Recreating a vital urban core will happen the same way it was destroyed: one building at a time.

— beautiful vintage photo of Fort Wayne posted to Flickr by Zach Klein

City may allow downtown to look like downtown

This is great news: Revamp of zoning in works — City wants to ease the rules for downtown development

The city hopes to rezone much of the downtown into this district, or a slightly less dense variation, and away from other commercial and industrial zoning.

The rules are more conducive to a downtown, (city planner Sherese Fortriede) said, because they ease parking restrictions and allow for multiple uses. They also allow buildings to be closer to the street, creating more of a dense urban feel. But the rules aren’t perfect, which is why the city also plans to take a closer look at its zoning laws. For example, Fortriede said the city probably shouldn’t allow anyone to just build more surface parking lots downtown when there is already ample parking.

Message to Midwest: Change or die

Today’s article at Next American City sets its sights on the Midwest:

Richard Longworth (a senior writer for the Chicago Tribune) wants you to know two things: First, globalization is happening and it will continue to change the world. Second, if you live in the Midwest, you’d better be very afraid about your region’s chances of competing in an increasingly “flat” world.

Contrary to the hoo-ha churned out by the countless chambers of commerce that dot the Midwest, not all is well in Mayberry. In a passionately argued and well-researched new book, Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalization, Richard Longworth takes us through a Midwest that is facing rapid change, as rural economies strain under the increasingly automated and corporate nature of modern agriculture, and as old industrial cities from Canton to Cleveland, Muncie to Milwaukee, struggle to find a new economic niche in a state of permanent deindustrialization.

The article takes us from the lows of Detroit to the highs of Chicago, and then offers a few suggestions:

Longworth offers a few policy suggestions, such as investment in biotech and biofuels, which would leverage the Midwest’s natural strength in food production into becoming a leader in future technologies. He also argues for a regional approach to development, a Midwest conversation on who we are as a region and what we should aim to become.

Read the whole article here. Read a Chicago Tribune review of Longworth’s book here.

— photo of a distressed portion of Detroit by Luca & Vita on Flickr