At a 13-story office tower under construction in Hollywood that will soon serve as the headquarters of Netflix, two floors of parking are designed for a different future: As the need for parking dwindles, that parking space can be easily converted into new office space.
Even today, parking garages are typically underused. In the not-too-distant future, car shares, self-driving cars, increased investment in transit, or simple behavioral change could all shift the amount of parking people think they need. And the U.S. also has far more parking than necessary–in Seattle, for example, there are five parking spaces for every resident. Architects and city planners are increasingly realizing that valuable city space could be put to better use than storing cars.
“There are 500 million parking spaces in the United States and [325 million] people,” says Andy Cohen, co-CEO of Gensler, the architecture firm that designed the Hollywood office tower. “Think about all that real estate, all that attention to parking, that could be revitalized and reused for the future of our cities.”
In downtown Boston, a parking lot will become the site of a 30-story high-rise with affordable housing. In Wichita, Kansas, a former parking garage was converted into an apartment building in 2018. Near downtown Cincinnati, a former parking garage is now a hotel. The U.K.-based organization Make Shift transformed an empty parking garage in Brixton into a new hub for small businesses in 2015, and in 2018 converted a seven-story parking garage in London into studios for artists, coworking offices, and community space. This type of conversion isn’t new–a “hotel for autos” built in Manhattan in the 1930s was converted into a warehouse a decade later, and then became apartments. But it’s happening at a faster rate now, and, increasingly, architects are designing new buildings with a vision of a future of fewer cars.
“We’re kind of at this interesting moment right now,” says Kristen Hall, a senior urban designer at the architecture firm Perkins + Will. “We’re probably going to be seeing full absorption of autonomous vehicles on the streets in anywhere from 10 to 30 years, and a lot of the financing for projects is on a 30-year basis. So if you’re a developer looking at building a parking garage and you don’t really know if you’re going to be able to finance or have a consistent revenue stream for a parking garage for the next 30 years, we’re finally at that point where we’re actually having a lot of developer clients who are questioning the financial feasibility of building parking garages.”….
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