Apocalyptic parking

April 30, 2008 at 11:24 pm 5 comments

There’s plenty to say about Parkview Hospital’s expansion up north and contraction on State Boulevard, but first, I wanted to address another angle of the proposed Shoppes on Broadway (sits plan shown above).

Why do all new retail developments look like suburban strip malls? Why is the parking lot almost twice as large as the footprint of the building?

A major reason is that every 180 square feet of retail space built in Fort Wayne requires its own parking space.

So the Phase I building at the top with 6,050 sq.ft. of space requires 34 parking spaces. And the Phase II building at the bottom with 10,200 sq.ft. of space requires 57 parking spaces.

The law doesn’t care what kind of stores are in the building. The stores could be low traffic or high traffic. There could be on-street parking, nearby garages or an abundance of pedestrian traffic. You still need a parking space for every 180 square feet of store.

But how often do you see a parking lot so full that you cannot find a space? Maybe, just maybe, the lot fills up on the day after Thanksgiving. But for the rest of the year, the lots are seldom more than half full. It’s parking built for the apocalypse and not for normal day-to-day shopping.

Not only are these hugs empty parking lots expensive, they separate stores from each other, making walking or biking unpleasant and sometimes dangerous.

We shouldn’t seek laws that force developers to create retails centers that shoppers would avoid. Instead, we should seek to loosen the existing, overly strict mid-20th-century zoning laws that are slowly dismantling our urban fabric by forcing suburban parking on inner-city blocks. The Shoppes on Broadway development is a great example of why the city of Fort Wayne should not just ease the rules for downtown development, but also expand such freedoms to other center-city neighborhoods. Downtown isn’t the only part of town that needs help.

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5 Comments

  • 1. john b. kalb  |  May 1, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Jon – And here I thought only engineers thought logically! This post just makes too much sense! Are our zoning people paying attention?
    If you want to see recent evidence of the illogical methods of the past at work, just drive out to Illinois Road and Thomas Road. With at least 30 % of existing commercial space within a mile of this project being empty, how can something like this proceed? IT IS POSSIBLE ONLY WITH OUR TAX SUPPORT, and the TAX SUPPORT OF ADJACENT SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS THAT DID NOT REQUIRE THE TIF FUNDS THAT HAVE BEEN SET ASIDE for infrastructure in their area. Read: “Use up all TIF revenues somewhere, especially when not needed where generated.”!

  • 2. Scott Bryson  |  May 1, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    It’s like the new Menards and Walmart on the south side. I have never seen those lots full, except for maybe Christmas shopping at Menards, and yet the lots are HUGE. We as citizens of the city should not allow this. If our leaders don’t do anything about it, maybe we need new leaders. This is in Pape’s distric but he isn’t likely to do anything about it. I don’t want the suburbs infecting my area of town.

  • 3. Kevin Whaley  |  May 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I do agree with the need for flexible parking standards in any community but the information presented here is incorrect.

    The standards established by the Fort Wayne Zoning Code do in fact distinguish between varying commercial uses. For example, a movie theatre requires 1 space for every 6 seats whereas a museum requires 1 for every 800 sq. ft. There are 4 pages (97-100) of different uses within the code.

    Additionally, section 157.141(F) of the ordinance does allow for Parking Credits “in order to accomplish the Comprehensive Plan’s objectives of urban revitalization, enhancing the
    pedestrian environment, and encouraging the use of
    transit.” For example, developers have the ability to substitute bike racks for parking spaces or use pervious or grid pavers instead of asphalt.

    Also, the Zoning Administrator has the ability to waive parking standards upon request:

    157.141(G) “To allow for flexibility concerning parking standards in order to accomplish the Comprehensive Plan’s objectives of allowing for mixed uses, encouraging new construction that is compatible with existing structures and
    development patterns, encouraging the provision of
    parking situations more suitable for higher density urban
    areas, and enhancing the pedestrian environment, the
    Zoning Administrator may grant waivers of required offstreet
    parking spaces, as part of its review of a Site Plan
    Routing project or Improvement Location Permit
    application.”

    The question is whether or not developers are choosing to exercise these options.

    For additional information be sure to take a look at pages 93-101 of this ordinance:

    http://www.cityoffortwayne.org/images/stories/community_development/land_use_zoning/files/12_31_07_zoning_ord.pdf

  • 4. Jon Swerens  |  May 3, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Kevin,

    Thank you for the correction! Yes, the question is whether or not developers are choosing to exercise these options.

    So,why would a developer not exercise this option? Is it cheaper or easier to just build parking to code instead of seeking a waiver? Does it cost a developer time and/or money to seek a waiver?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems the city makes it easy to build the way I criticized, but required some sort of exception to do otherwise. Sounds like a developer could come up with an alternate plan, but have it turned down, since the 1 space per 800 sq.ft. guideline is the only one actually spelled out in the law. Or am I reading this wrong?

    Thanks for your clarification.

  • 5. Kevin Whaley  |  May 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Jon,

    From my experience, the largest challenge is changing our dominant social paradigm of creating single-use, auto-oriented development.

    Zoning has certainly played a role in establishing the modern form of development that we’re accustomed to today. But it seems that Fort Wayne has created the tools necessary to create a gradual shift away from promoting asphalt wastelands. For example, you are correct to state that ordinances often seek to address the “worst case scenario” by requiring large numbers of parking spaces to accommodate the busiest times of the year. Yet Fort Wayne has taken a step forward by allowing the use of permeable pavers for at least a portion of the site. I’d have to check with the City of Fort Wayne but I’m guessing that using these pavers might reduce the stormwater fees for a particular site since water can penetrate through the openings. So why aren’t they being used? I think it goes back to stepping out of the mold and trying something different.

    Developers believe, and often rightfully so, that in order to market retail space to a variety of users the capture area must be larger than of what most people to and from. In this particular situation it seems that providing adequate parking is necessary for most businesses to attract passing motorists. I think that you are right to point out that parking should have been addressed in a different manner…especially for this area. (It’s also too bad that the property on the corner wasn’t included in this development.)

    I can’t address your question regarding whether or not requesting a waiver adds to the overall cost / time frame of development with absolute certainty. It seems that requesting a waiver could run concurrent with any other approvals that might be necessary to build on the site, especially since the approval comes from city staff and not a board or commission.

    I enjoy reading your posts regarding urban development and appreciate your perspective. You definitely have the mindset of a formally trained urban planner. Keep up the good work.


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