Self-driving cars could kill parking garages. Here’s how developers are responding

Parking space could be converted to offices or housing

Jan.January 31, 2018 11:00 AM

Midtown Manhattan parking garage (Credit: Getty Images)

As the rise of self-driving cars threatens to make many parking garages obsolete, developers are thinking about ways to repurpose them.

Architecture firm Gensler, for example, is working on ways to turn garages into affordable housing, for example by building modular units that can fit into existing structures. The firm also recently designed an office building in Cincinnati that includes three stories of parking space that can be converted into offices.

“The term that we’re hearing over and over again is ‘future-proof,’” Jeffrey Shumaker, director of Urban Planning and Design at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, told the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, architecture firm Perkins + Will is designing the 27-acre mixed-use project Mission Rock in San Francisco with autonomous cars in mind. It could include less parking space and more curbside drop-off areas. “These projects are beta-testing the autonomous future,” the co-director of Perkins + Will’s mobility research lab, Gerry Tierney, told the Journal.

In the future, the backs of parking structures might be designed so they can maximize the light for residential tenants, according to Gensler regional managing principal Joseph Brancato. “Parking garages are big and deep, and with residential you want as much natural light as you can get,” he told the Journal. Convertible parking garages cost more to make, but the payoff could be great: In Denver, converting one garage to office space could yield an ROI of more than 40 percent, Brancato said.

Developers are mindful of a future dip in demand for parking space because many are building structures meant to last decades, if not longer.

At a June panel, Jeremy Levine, a partner at venture firm Bessemer Venture Partners, argued that self-driving, electric cars would spell the end of pricey Manhattan parking garages. “Operators of real estate will go from selling parking spaces to selling electricity” through charging stations, he said. [WSJ]Konrad Putzier

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