No Parking: Report says big box retail seeking less space for cars

More and more, Walmart and the like are finding other uses for extra parking spaces

The parking lot at the Wood Village Walmart in Oregon. (Google)
The parking lot at the Wood Village Walmart in Oregon. (Google)

They paved paradise and put up a much smaller parking lot.

The Sightline Institute, which promotes sustainable development in the Pacific Northwest, is reporting that those oversized parking lots surrounding giant brick-and-mortar retail establishments are shrinking — usually the retailers’ request — and local governments are now rethinking the amount of space they will demand to be reserved for car storage around such buildings in the future.

The Institute singled out the largest Walmart in the Portland, Oregon region as an example of a store that has too much parking for its own good. That store, in Wood Village, Oregon, has been scaling back the number of spaces since as far back as 2004, when a 45 percent expansion of the store resulted in 36 percent more spaces.

“Every time we reevaluate, we pull it down a little bit,” Walmart’s head of real estate John Clarke said in this year’s Institute for Transportation & Development Policy report on parking reform.

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That size of the parking lot at the Wood Village store has been reduced further post-Covid, with large portions of it roped off, and another area being used to store shipping containers. Those moves have had little impact on shoppers, who, even on Black Friday this year, still had plenty of spaces to choose from, the website said.

Most municipalities now demand more parking spaces per square foot of store space than the retailers want, according to the report, with big chains like Walmart seeking zoning variances so they can decrease the number of spaces the government demands, saving money on the cost of land.

The trend of smaller parking lots started in earnest pre-pandemic, when online shopping but a big dent in the number of people driving to stores. Back then, retailers like Macy’s started selling off land designated for parking to help invest in their online shopping presence.

But it was exasperated by the onset of Covid-19, and now parking lots that once provided free car storage while shoppers filled their bags with goodies are being used for storage, entertainment such as drive-in movie theaters, and in one case, tiny structures for the homeless to sleep in.

[Sightline Institute] — Vince DiMiceli

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