Drive around any suburb and you'll see a lot of empty asphalt. The empty parking lots at Target or Walmart are somewhat understandable in March – those lots are very full in November and December. "Seas of Asphalt" (as they're sometimes termed) aren't nearly as defensible at office buildings that are 95% occupied.
We worked on an interesting infill project in Edina, Minnesota last year (an affluent first ring suburb of Minneapolis). The existing 111,000 square foot office building has 557 surface parking stalls, which equates to 5 stalls per 1,000 square feet of office – clearly built during the era of more is better.
The building owner was staring at a giant, empty parking lot and decided to do something about it. The building is along a state highway about a quarter mile from the interchange. There are big neighborhoods near the site and they received interest from a daycare center who'd like to build in the area.
The owner brought the idea to the city and staff told them they needed to do a parking study to show there would be adequate parking on the site for the building and the added daycare center (especially since they'd lose parking by building the daycare in a portion of the parking lot). We forecast the site will have a maximum parking demand of 309 vehicles for the 492 stalls that will be on site after the daycare is built (analysis process is below).
This is a no-brainer and potentially a proactive area for city staff, consulting engineers, and even property owners to be working in. We should be looking for large, underutilized parking lots in desiarable areas where we can do some infill redevelopment.
Parking Study Process:
- Drive through the parking lot every half hour from 8 am to 4:30 p.m. on a typical weekday and note the number of cars parked on site (we broke the site into multiple zones in case we wanted to do a more refined look at the supply/demand of convenient parking).
- Factor up the parking utilization trendline to account for the 22% vacancy rate (to analyze a theoretically full office building).
- Forecast the parking demand of the daycare baed on Parking Generation.
- Subtract the amount of parking supply that will be lost due to the daycare building pad.
- Compare the maximum parking demand number to the new parking supply number.