It is a prevailing opinion that the ancient rule of cookie-cutter mall development is dying and developers are starting to think of new design concepts. While redeveloping the extinct malls is a whole different chapter and daunting challenge, what do we do with the existing widespread surface parking lots of the perishing malls? For years parking had ordained the development forms. ‘Ten Principles for Rethinking the Mall’ published by Urban Land Institute in 2006, implicates that, conventional shopping centers use three times of the land for street and surface parking for shopping. Surface stalls cost about $2,000 to $3,000 per space and structured spaces cost about $15,000 to $25, 000 or even more.
The expensive and huge surface lots emerged in the 1920s. Regional shopping centers are much larger than the neighborhood ones. The recommended parking requirement for neighborhood centers is 2:1, two square feet of parking area to one square foot of net floor selling space (American Society of Planning Officials, 1954). “In the 1950s, this was the brave new world of shopping; in the 2000s, it is an anachronism, an artifact of a world that no longer exists (Urban Land Institute, 2006)”. Ben Joseph in ‘Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking’ argues that, the zoning formula developed by cities which is between 6 to 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space just created excessive supply of parking. Research reveals that cities like Orlando and Los Angeles parking lots comprises nearly one-third of the land area.
The exposed huge lots not only affect the landscape of the city but also have environmental impact. They increase the heat island effect and storm water run-off. These existing underutilized spaces should embrace an alternative, effective use and function to create vibrant public spaces. Creative and potential activities should be introduced in parking spaces to engage the community, create a lively space and boost the market value. The New York City Department of Transportation has been joining hands with local restaurants for almost two years now to install pop-up cafes in parking spaces, creating spirited public spaces for the community (Project for Public Spaces, 2011). Though the Owings Mills mall, Baltimore has no bright future and revitalization of mall is still in design phase, the surrounded empty parking lots are at least used for temporary events like circus and carnival to engage the neighborhood during the summer. Many cities are now using the parking lots for community farmers markets and temporary events like concerts and craft shows during weekends (Newcombe, Tod, 2012).
Circus in Owings Mills Parking Lot, Baltimore
Schenley Plaza in underutilized parking space, Pittsburgh
Pop up Cafe in Parking Spaces, New York City
PlaNYC calls for open space throughout the city and indicates that in each of city’s 59 community boards, there should be an opportunity to transfigure underutilized street space in to a successful plaza (City Room, 2012). In 2006, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and its community partners transformed and restored the underutilized five-acres parking lot in to an effective Schenley plaza. More commuters now prefer to bike and use public transit. The parking demand should eventually decline (The Washington Post). But it is too early to predict if all the parking spaces and lots of the cities will slowly disappear. Ben Joseph estimates that there are 500 million surface-lot parking spaces in the U.S., covering an area that is larger than Puerto Rico. What will happen to existing massive parking lot is the biggest challenge to planners, architects and developers. “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places” (Project for Public Space). Declining mall is of course a serious problem but before a solution is comprehended, the frequently evaded parking lot spaces surrounding the mall could be used effectively for diverse activities.
- American Planning Association (1954).Planning Advisory Services, ‘Site Design, Parking and Zoning for Shopping Centers’.
- Chan, Sewell (2007), ‘Parking Lot in Dumbo Becomes a Public Plaza’, City Room. The New York Times.
- Joseph, Eran (2012) ‘When a Parking Lot is So Much More’, The New York Times Opinion Pages.
- Joseph, Eran (2012) ‘Rethinking A Lot: The Design And Culture of Parking’, Primary Resources.
- Kimmelman, Michael (2012), ‘Paved but Still Alive’, The New York Times.
- Neil, Dan (2012) ‘Book Review : I Know It’s Here Somewhere’, The Wall Street Journal.
- Newcombe, Tod (2012), ‘With American Driving Less, What Will Happen to the Parking Lot?’, Governing The States and the Localities.
- Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy webpage (Accessed 2012).
- Project for Public Spaces (2011), ‘A Day in the Life of a Pop- Up Cafe’.
- ‘Ten Principles of Rethinking the Mall’, Urban Land Institute.
- ‘101 Uses for a Deserted Mall’, The New York Times Opinion Pages.