There’s a growing belief among architects and designers that all urban parking garages should be built with these “good bones,” which will allow them to be re-purposed in the future. For a variety of reasons, from higher gas prices to greater densification to better transit options, city residents will continue to drive fewer cars. 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.
“As the auto culture wanes we’re going to have a lot of demolition to do, which is unfortunate,” says Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. “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.”
Fisher says designing parking structures with an eye toward their afterlife is not only logical but rather simple. 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. Those types of changes may cost a tiny bit more up front but will provide enormous savings down the line…
New York isn’t the only place where this re-use is happening. During a recent talk, Fisher pointed out a few other examples from the Twin Cities and elsewhere around the country. In St. Paul, a developer is converting a century-old building from a garage into an apartment complex; in Miami Beach, a parking ramp is being used for retail and housing purposes.
While cars are not going away anytime soon, occasionally converting parking garages can happen. Yet, it would be interesting to see the money that converting requires versus tearing down the garage and building a new structure. I also imagine there are limits to what parking garages can be converted to.
I wonder if the fact that a building was formerly a parking garage is also part of the marketing. That might be a very different ring than saying it was a former factory or theater or church.