More Developers Building “Convertible” Parking Garages

UrbanCincy readers may know that the 84.51° Center (formerly Dunnhumby Centre) in Downtown Cincinnati includes an above-ground parking garage that can be converted into office space at a later date. The building was designed this way because of anticipated future growth of the building’s namesake tenant.

An increasing number of parking garages across the country are now being designed in this way. That’s partially because developers are starting to understand that our urban real estate is better used for office space, residential, and retail as opposed to car storage. Developers also predict that the demand for urban parking garages will decline as self-driving cars start to appear in the coming decades — why park your car in an expensive garage downtown when you can send it back home after it drops you off at work?

From the Denver Post:

“It’s smart use of resources and space is a resource,” Cohen said. “If you’re designing a building and there’s space that potentially could become obsolete over time, that’s just a wasted opportunity.”

Building parking that has future life as something else requires particular thought to the garage’s floor-to-ceiling heights and slope of the floors, Fisher said.

“The typical sloped-ramp parking garage has about a 5 percent slope,” Fisher said. “You can’t work in that space.”

Instead, the floor plates need to be flat, with discrete ramps between the levels, Petersen said. At WTC Denver, the ramps are being designed so they can be removed someday, leaving a light-filled courtyard.

“It doesn’t take much more initial investment or cost,” he said. “It’s more just thinking creatively.”

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  • JacobEPeters

    That last sentence scares me. If self driving cars allow a car to be sent back home unattended it will significantly increase per capita gas consumption, and traffic gridlock. I hope we come up with a better solution when using this technology than doubling our gas consumption.

    • It’s impossible to accurately predict the impact of driverless cars but I suspect the result will be more traffic and more congestion, at least in the short term. That’s partially because a bunch of zero-occupancy cars will be added to the streets with drivers sending their empty vehicle somewhere to park, or even worse, owners telling their car to “circle the block” while they’re inside a store. It’s also going to be difficult for regular and self-driving cars to co-exist on the streets, which is going to cause additional congestion and confusion. And finally, I don’t believe any of these predictions that people are going to suddenly start carpooling more once driverless cars exist.

    • JacobEPeters

      It’s why I am curious whether we will need to outlaw driverless vehicles being solely owned by individuals. Since a fleet of driverless vehicles managed by a transportation agency of some sort (whether public or private) would do a much better job of efficiently utilizing road space for supplying the demand for trips.

      This could take the form of car owners having to file usage agreements with a organization like Uber or Lyft (or even SORTA), but then the scheduling of when they would need “their” car in advance would be needed, and part of the allure of private automobiles is the ability to use it whenever you want on a momentary whim (consequently this is also what makes them so dangerous, since those same whims distract human operators while they are driving).

  • xclone25x

    Are any other garages in Cincy, planned construction or recently built, following this mold, or is the newer one at 6th and Race the only one? It seems so silly and shortsighted if so, but not necessarily surprising for this city.

  • Matt Jacob

    This has been talked about for years now. Here are a few links with more info:
    http://urbanland.uli.org/planning-design/universal-structures-long-term-sustainable-assets/
    http://urbanland.uli.org/infrastructure-transit/flexible-parking-structures-civic-catalysts/

    It would be a big step forward to mandate this approach for new garages, especially TIFed ones.

    • Absolutely. This should be a requirement for all garages that receive public funding.