Can you reuse a parking structure?

One of the best features of a typical urban stone or brick building is that it’s adaptable. A former clothing store can become a bank, or apartments, or offices.

But what about parking garages? Can an underused parking garage be adapted to other uses in the future, or are we stuck with having to tear them down if we want something else? Can we even convert one or two floors into something else?

Although it’s been successful in some instances, David Sucher thinks you’re stuck with it.

Here are three necessities that he says are missing from most parking structures:

  • “Adequate” headroom for a range of typical uses.
  • Minimum ramps and maximum level floor plates as you don’t want to have to contend with a Guggenheim Museum ramp.
  • “Adequate” floor loads as believe it or not cars are not that heavy.

Read David’s entry here.

photo by Fetchy

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.