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CRE Opinion: Stop Over-Parking

Listen up, capital partners, lenders, and brokers.
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The mandate issued by end-users and the brokerage community for parking ratios ranging from four to six spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space isn’t realistic, and is leaving tens of thousands of parking spaces empty each day across our metropolitan area. This means wasted energy to light empty parking levels, millions of cubic feet of concrete underutilized, building footprints covering greenfield sites, and most of all, unnecessary investment by developers and added expense in rents incurred by end users.

I offer this set of statistics as one source of evidence for my position: Granite Properties recently completed a car count in all of its garages at Granite Park in Plano, a campus of more than 2.5 million square feet of multi-tenant office buildings, as well as a hotel and retail. Granite has consistently provided four per 1,000 parking ratios for tenants across the office park, and has built a dedicated parking garage for each of its six office towers completed to date.

Don Powell

The study revealed, when grossed up to 100 percent occupancy and assuming “Easter Sunday” level peak demand for each property, more than 47 percent of the stalls will be vacant on the average peak day. Actual utilized parking equates to 1.834 per 1,000.

As a matter of fact, today we build more square feet for parking than the uses the parking serves. In office buildings, at four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, we build 1.25 square feet of parking garage for each square foot of office. In restaurants, we build 3.15 square feet of parking per square foot of kitchen and dining space. Retail shops and neighborhood services require 1.58 square feet of parking per square foot of retail area.

In an age where we are considering the impact of self-driving cars on parking requirements, and the offshoot of that discussion in how we will repurpose parking structures when they are rendered obsolete, why are we still mandating huge parking ratios for tenants? Nothing would please me more than to seriously reduce or eliminate the economic impact of parking structures in our work centers.

In real estate, we think about the cost per parking stall to build garages, or the cost per rentable square foot against a pro forma, which ultimately translates to cost for a business to house a car all day for each employee.

But in all sincerity, can we really change the formula?

I have commuted an average of 28 miles to drive to work every work day for the past 31 years. I used my car as an ornament of status and a mechanism to escape from the 45- to 60-minute commuter grind each way. Our $15,000 to $25,000 price tag per parking stall garages are filled with $50,000 to $200,000 automobiles. Are we as a society willing to give up our personal expression of individuality and ride to work in a hired car or—heaven forbid—use mass transit? For something totally radical, how about living close enough to work, or working close enough to home to walk or ride a bike to work?

My wife and I recently moved to Uptown. My commute is now five to seven minutes. I see my dependence on my car diminishing and my need to escape the grind almost gone. I could Uber to work every day and no longer need that almighty reserved parking space at the office—not to mention the thousands of dollars I’d save every month on cost to own, insure, maintain, and fuel a car.

I am a 65-year-old male who is re-examining my way of life. If many of us would take the time to share what we’ve learned with our younger co-workers and family members, maybe we could better utilize our resources.

Brokers may rightfully or wrongfully be “blamed” for the over-parking hysteria, but we all enable the craziness to continue.

The private development sector needs to inform authorities having jurisdiction and lenders on these issues, not the other way around.

Don Powell is a principal-in-charge at BOKA Powell Architects.

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