3 Creative Ways to Tackle Parking Needs

All week long, we're talking about the harmful nature of minimum parking requirements and on Friday, you have the chance to highlight why they're so darn unnecessary in your town during our annual #BlackFridayParking event

But what happens when you really need parking? I'm not talking about a perceived "need" for available parking spots at all times in all places. I'm talking about office buildings, apartments and grocery stores that exist in areas that aren't fully accessible by bike, transit or walking. Or museums and event venues that attract a lot of out of town visitors. 

How can you build a reasonable amount of parking to accommodate these needs without overbuilding or destroying your city's tax base? Furthermore, is there a way to build parking that anticipates a time in the future when it won't be needed and allows the building to be adapted to other uses?

Here are three creative approaches to these questions:

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1. Wrap parking in housing and businesses.

After parking minimum laws were removed in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, development company Kilbourne Group chose to build a new parking garage near the city center. Because they weren't bound by minimum requirements, Kilbourne Group was able to construct just enough parking to meet demand (with most of their spaces in use around the clock) and they were able to build it in a thoughtful manner, incorporating housing and commercial space into the area — and wrapping this around the parking garage so as to improve, not detract, from street life. Read more about their story.


2. Build parking as flexible space.

There's a new idea cropping up in cities around the country: Building parking that could one day be used for another purpose when the need for parking decreases or disappears. Intentionally constructing parking garages for an anticipated future use like housing or retail is not without its challenges (what do you do with all the space taken up by ramps? how do you design the entrance?), but a few developers have put forth this idea and are considering it in places like Miami, Seattle and Los Angeles. Read more about it.

3. Treat parking as transportation infrastructure.

What if we treated on-street parking as a temporary loading area (for quick errands and stops), and off-street parking the same way we treat bus stops or subway stations — as simply points where we transfer between vehicle and foot travel? Under this arrangement, we could relieve property owners of the burden of constructing parking and instead have cities build it at equally interspersed intervals in a given neighborhood. Learn more about this idea.


We at Strong Towns look forward to the day when no one feels the need to construct any more parking, when walking and biking become easier and more frequently used modes of transportation, and when our cities can have productive tax bases once again. In the interim though, if you're going to have parking, think carefully and critically about what form it will take and how it can be repurposed down the road.

(Top photo source: Alex Grodkiewicz)

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