Developers Building Less Parking Per Bedroom
After 70 years of ever more parking, developers are cutting back, new report shows.
For decades the number of parking spaces built for each new residence in America has marched steadily upward. But now we may have reached a turning point.
A new report by the real estate analysis firm Redfin, which operates Walk Score, suggests a change is underway. Property data for millions of U.S. homes shows the number of parking spaces per bedroom in new construction has declined for the last four years.
Parking construction per bedroom has dipped before, says Redfin data scientist Eric Scharnhorst, during recessions or periods of high energy prices. But this time, the decline coincides with cheap gas and rising employment.
Redfin looked at apartments, condos, and single-family homes. In the analysis, a house with a two-car garage, for example, was counted as having two parking spaces. And an apartment with a single parking stall was counted as having one parking space.
It will take more time and data to determine if this is a real long-term shift. But the recent trend is an encouraging sign that the nation can make progress when it comes to excessive parking construction and the traffic and affordability problems it causes.
Before you start feeling too good about the state of affairs, however, remember that America still builds more homes with three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments. So there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Milwaukee’s most dense neighborhoods are certainly fertile ground to reduce the amount of parking built, and developers have signaled they’re on board. The city, to their credit, is also on board, Milwaukee’s zoning code has very low demands for parking, and the Department of City Development allows developers to work around standard parking regulations as part of negotiating for a zoning variance. The city has also sold a number of surface parking lots in recent years, which developers have used to build apartments and condominiums. A recent neighborhood plan for Walker’s Point, a rapidly developing neighborhood, even calls for more strategic use of parking assets including sharing facilities between different tenants (industrial and residential) and enacting more sensible policies.
Still development proposals frequently are met with opposition on the basis of parking, which can completely kill projects. A proposed building on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side was torpedoed by neighborhood objections centered on parking in 2013, even though the building would have provided more parking spaces than units. An apartment project targeted for a city-owned site on N. Edison St. in East Town stalled after the usually pro-density alderman Robert Bauman objected to the developer’s proposal to build no parking and instead lease an adjacent parking garage. The city’s proposal requirements did not include the need for parking.
One just-opened success story for sensible parking development is the recently opened Greenwich Park Apartments at 2353 N. Farwell Ave. To assemble the development site the developer purchased a city-owned parking lot. Terms of the sale required the developer to replace the parking, but instead of building new parking the developer leased space in the adjacent garage used by Whole Foods. That setup now allows a single underground garage to serve the grocery store during the day and other East Side customers at night. The development itself, which includes parking for residents, includes fewer than one parking space per unit. – Jeramey Jannene
Greenwich Park Apartments
Story by Angie Schmitt with additional contributions from Urban Milwaukee. A version of this story originally ran on Streetsblog. Angie Schmitt is a newspaper reporter-turned planner/advocate who manages the Streetsblog Network from glamorous Cleveland, Ohio. She also writes about urban issues particular to the industrial Midwest at Rustwire.com.