Parking Facilities -- Not Just For Cars Anymore!
Tim Christle, P.E.
Multipurpose." As consumers, we all seem to gravitate toward this word rather frequently these days, since our first thought is typically "greater versatility and value." Multipurpose tools, cleaners, copiers, passenger vehicles, cell phones, clothing, etc., are just a few examples of this trend.
This trend also has had a growing impact on parking facility design for several years, and it appears stronger now than ever before. Gone are the days when most new parking structures are solely for the purpose of parking cars. Owners and developers of today are constantly striving for ways to capture the best and maximum use of land, which can often be scarce and expensive. In addition, wise use of alternative space in a garage can actually create a parking "demand generator" within the confines of the same facility.
Though the need for more parking is clearly the catalyst for most parking facility development, an opportunity to include alternative space within the garage often presents itself. This can enhance the viability, usefulness and attractiveness of such facilities in many different ways.
The following are actual examples of alternative space that has been incorporated into parking facility design projects:
* Retail. Space provided for the sale of goods or services is the most common request we receive for garages today.
* Restaurant. We've designed for restaurant space at grade, on upper levels of the garage, and as a retrofit where there was only parking.
* Office. Another very common request, which can range from a simple parking operator's office to an entire floor for more tenant workspace.
* Storage. From the traditional "under ramp" storage space seen in many garages to special-needs archive space, which included designing for extra-heavy loads.
* Car Detailing. Often a partitioned area where you can have your car cleaned and waxed while you leave it for the day.
* Bookstore. A popular trend at colleges and universities, located where students most often park their cars on the way to class.
* Ticket Office. Next to stadiums, arenas and theaters.
* Museum Space/Entertainment. We've had exciting opportunities to incorporate entertainment-related space into garages as a sense of "destination arrival."
* Bus Terminal/Inter-Modal/Light Rail. A key integration of passenger vehicles and mass transit, which is more prevalent today than ever before.
* Green Space. Whether on the top level of a structure or within landscaped "light wells," this can greatly enhance the environmental quality of a parking facility.
* Athletic Club/Tennis Court/Jogging Track. Incorporated most often on the roof level of parking facilities for office or residential users.
* Heliport. A frequent issue for hospitals and medical centers, where there's a need to provide a roof-level landing area for emergency medical helicopters.
* Medical. Outpatient treatment and medical laboratory space.
* Auto Bank. Commonly at grade, with convenient teller and ATM lanes like any typical branch bank.
* Greenhouses. An opportunity for a university to create academic/research space on a parking structure's top level.
* Solar Panels. Combining the means for collecting a natural energy source with parking.
* Public Restrooms. Convenient for nearby public venues and downtown/urban parking environments.
* Rental Car Services. Very popular at airports, but also found in the central business district.
Tim Christle, P.E., is Vice President and a Regional Manager for Carl Walker Inc. He can be reached at
Article Abstract from January, 2005