Replacing Parking with People: The Next Wave of Adaptive Reuse

The trend towards less driving and auto ownership is causing designers to rethink the future of America's ever-growing supply of parking garages. Eric Jaffe explores what it means to design a garage with an eye towards a less car-dependent future.
November 14, 2013, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

"For a variety of reasons, from higher gas prices to greater densification to better transit options, city residents will continue to drive fewer cars," explains Jaffe. "As a result, we'll eventually require fewer parking lots. The ability to adapt a structure rather than tear it down will save developers time, money, and material waste."

To meet this need, architects and designers like Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, are proposing how to outfit urban parking garages for a life after cars. "His three key elements to an adaptable garage design are flat floors, comfortable floor-to-ceiling heights, and enough loading capacity (in other words, strength) to support another structural use," notes Jaffe.

"As the auto culture wanes we're going to have a lot of demolition to do, which is unfortunate," says Fisher. "If we're going to build these [garages] let's design them in a way that they can have alternative uses in the future. With just a few tweaks that's really possible."

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Published on Thursday, November 14, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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