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On-Site Parking Requirements Stifle D.C. Redevelopment

Business owners, city leaders, and community members would love to see the struggling Anacostia neighborhood transformed into a bustling retail zone. But onerous parking requirements in DC's outdated zoning code are stifling the city's own ambitions.
March 21, 2013, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"[T]ransit-rich and pedestrian-friendly, with a compact downtown served by a Metro station, numerous bus lines, and a Circulator route," D.C.'s Anacostia neighborhood has been targeted as a prime candidate for growth by the city's Office of Planning. Aaron Wiener investigates the central obstacle preventing that redevelopment: the city's own parking requirements. 

"[A]ccording to the city’s zoning code—which dates back to 1958, when public transit had fallen out of fashion and automobiles were ascendant—retailers there are required to provide on-site parking for customers, regardless of the customers’ need or the retailer’s ability to meet it. As a result, several businesses interested in opening in Anacostia have changed their minds or been forced to endure long and expensive delays while they apply for special exemptions."

"It’s a challenge that’s playing out across the city," adds Wiener, "with some developers opting to apply for exemptions from the parking minimums, which are usually granted, while others are discouraged from undertaking projects. But it’s a particularly acute problem in Anacostia, where retail is sorely needed and the market is still sufficiently unproven that developers are reluctant to take risks on ventures that could lose money. A requirement to build parking or apply for a variance adds an extra expense that can scare would-be retailers away—particularly when there’s not even space on site for parking, a common scenario in the historic neighborhood."

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Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in Washington City Paper
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