Dave Reid

Surface Parking Lots are a Priority to be Developed

By - Apr 6th, 2010 08:54 am
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Parking Lot

Parking Lot

Vast acres of land sit vacant in Milwaukee.  Sometimes they partially fill for part of the day, but most of the time, this land sits barren collecting trash, adding nothing to the city.  Surface parking lots take up prime real estate along the Milwaukee River, in East Town there are surface lots which sit a short walk from million dollar condos, and are used for truck parking.  On the East Side, there are still surface lots in prime locations, and there’s no question that opposition to the development of these sites will form, and parking will be a tool used to fight the development.  Far too often concerns over parking play a role in stopping investment, continuing the loss of our history, and destroying the urban fabric.

In fact just about anytime a new development is proposed in Milwaukee the “issue” of parking is sure to bubble up.  For example, concerns over the loss of public parking played a role in bringing Mercy Housing Lakefront’s proposal on the East Side to a halt.  When the concept of an on-campus basketball facility for UWM was floated, people hit the blogs to complain about the impacts on parking.  The list of projects opposed on the grounds of “parking” is endless, and unfortunate as this has worked against building the tax base and growing Milwaukee.

All over the city, and especially downtown more often than not where a parking lot sits today a building sat before.  These sites were cleared to make parking more available, but it came at a huge loss to Milwaukee’s history.  Even today Next Generation Real Estate Inc. is proposing the demolition of buildings along Broadway and Wisconsin Ave.  They aren’t proposing replacing the buildings with surface lots, though that is a potential outcome if the project were to go bad, but their plan does include adding more parking, despite that area having multiple parking garages and surface lots in very close proximity.

These lots damage the fabric of the city by creating gaps and dead spaces that are uncomfortable to the pedestrian.  Walking along any large surface lots has a is more like the edge of a desert, than it is the center of a city.  Density is reduce by surface lots as this pushes buildings further apart, in fact discouraging walking and encouraging more automobile driving.  The net result of this is that walkability, density, and the sense of place are all degraded, taking away key advantages that make cities work.

I hope that when projects come along that propose the development of a surface parking lot in the future, this will be looked at as a positive, not a negative.


9 thoughts on “Surface Parking Lots are a Priority to be Developed”

  1. Chris says:

    I really could not agree more, i see empty space everywhere downtown, and its an eyesore to be driving or walking around and see these “parking” areas littered with trash and overgrown with weeds.

  2. And I still can’t find a parking spot!

  3. dan says:

    great insight. “they” demolished a beautiful historic building in walker’s point a year back or so, and replaced it with a (private) parking area. no one in the walker’s square community knew it was happening until it came down. the disruption to the “feel” of the block was and still is palpable.

  4. Nick Aster says:

    Well said! I I think they should tax surface lots out of existence – either donate the land for a park, or build on it!

  5. Jeff Jordan says:

    In the Downer neighborhood, we have city owned surface lot on Park and Downer that sits empty most of the time and the failed New Land condo site on Stowell and Webster. Than there is the infamous “Ramp” on Belleview and Downer, that serves almost no one, because the development it was suppose to serve has not been done. I’m sorry but people that complain about not finding parking in the Downer neighborhood just aren’t looking.
    One big problem with parking in a lot of places in the city is occasional high volume needs such as festival and event parking. Inundating an area for short periods of time with a high volume of traffic. Look at the land taken up by parking for Miller Park, the stress on parking facilities during Festival Season on the Lakefront or the elevated rates charged by the limited facilities during Buck’s games or concerts downtown. Say what you will about cubs fan’s but they take the Elevated to their home games. It’s only visiting fans that pay the outrageous prices to park at Wrigley
    Dave,the other side of your point is that we need to serve the high traffic areas with good public transportation, safe walkways and bike trails to obviate the need for cars in the first place.
    We need to develop better public transportation to these areas on a need basis. I suggest more buses, light rail and shuttle service. We also have to build more pedestrian friendly walkways and safer bike lanes.

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick I think maybe a few more well designed small parks are ok, but primarily we need these parking lots to develop because that is what will increase Milwaukee’s density. Further, I agree on the tax suggestion.

  7. I think this is an issue that has been way too understated, until this post. The reality is; more parking, more cars, wider streets and less density that all feed on each other creating more wasted time and energy. Taxing them out of existence would be great and ironic, since it was lower taxes on lots, as compared with buildings, that brought them into existence.

    A real independent parking study should be done downtown, if one has been done please tell me I would like to see it. To me the logic is pretty clear; the cost of a parking spot downtown is way below the cost of creating it. Econ 101 tells me that there is way too may spots in the market if the price is below the production cost. A person should be expected to pay at least the production cost of what they use. By subsidizing parking and making it cheep, a false market has been created where everyone thinks they are entitled to a spot downtown as if they were pulling into their garage at home, which is fine if you can pay the TRUE cost.

    I do think we need to have available parking for large events, but people should expect to pay for it. If you can’t pay, then take the mass transit. That will help to reduce demand and bring the right balance to the city.

  8. Brent Johnson says:

    Parking lots decimate our skyline.

    East of the Pfister Hotel (which, I might add, has its own parking garage), on Jefferson and Mason, we have a large parking lot. Across the street to the north is a 9-level parking garage and across the street to the west is the aforementioned Pfister parking garage.

    On Broadway and Michigan, there rests a multitiered carpark and an adjacent empty parking lot. Across the street and behind the Grain Exchange building, there is yet another parking lot that serves no purpose other than to highlight the burnt behinds of buildings on Water.

    Sandwiched in between the Grand Avenue Mall and the famed Milwaukee Hilton, we have a gorgeously atmosphere-ruining parking lot. Where we could have a sleek new addition to the dying Mall or even a parking structure to suit the Midwest Airlines Center across the street, there lies nothing but pavement.

    And of course, next to the US Bank Building, what do we have? A parking lot and the 7-story 611 East. Where a 30-story office building with hundreds of jobs could rise, we have parking spots. It’s not like an underground parking structure would be difficult with such a building, either, considering it is on a hill…

    For the love of god, no more parking lots downtown. They are completely obsolete in a world that contains the technology to stack concrete slabs on top of each other to form parking structures. I hope that the city forms a coalition to regulate the efficient use of real estate in business districts (as exist in Manhattan and the Loop), and I hope that said coalition determines parking lots to be incredibly stupid wastes of space in a vibrant downtown.

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