Earlier, I posted a map highlighting the incredible parking density that South Bend has throughout the downtown. The impact on curb appeal, stormwater management, urban heat island effect, and well as landuse strategies cannot be overlooked. Another important consideration is the amount of privately owned parking that makes up that total amount. But that brings up another important problem: as soon as the business who owns the parking closes, we’re left with an empty lot.
One of the most popular ideas from my college studio days was utilizing these after hours vacant lots as temporary spaces for things like Farmer’s Markets. In general, I think it’s important for both the business owners and the public to think of these spaces as opportunities to connect to the surrounding context. Surface parking can often acts as a barrier for people to experience of that business. At the very least, thinking of the parking lots as multipurpose spaces, existing as one thing while businesses are open and another after hours, provides opportunities to introduce the public to the business. It also begins to connect places to their context. Given the post yesterday, it would be easy to take this strategy another step further.
Envisioning the space for a use like a park first and parking second ensures that pedestrians needs are met while still accommodating vehicles. Using structural soils, enables grass to grow while providing the support that vehicles need for parking. Additionally, including park amenities like plantings, pedestrian scale lighting, and benches sets people needs as a priority while improving curb appeal.
A video from ASLA, where these images are from, explains this impact of parks like this in revitalizing cities. Though, their model looks most specifically at replacing the parking entirely with a park. It certainly would fit within the framework described in earlier posts, aimed at reducing the total volume of parking.