April 2020

Parking facilities

Redesigned parking lots in post-COVID-19 Atlanta

By Maxine Hicks and Andrew Much, DLA Piper

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has profoundly impacted the way we will work, shop and choose to travel by car in the years to come. For example, most of us have now learned to telecommute effectively and have become adept at using home video conferencing. These changes in the way we work and live will have a fundamental impact on Atlanta’s real estate market and will accelerate trends already underway for a reduced need for parking spaces in the city’s core market areas. This article examines the adaptive reuse of parking spaces as the demand for such spaces declines and the trend toward vacant parking spaces accelerates.

The United States has up to two billion parking spaces for approximately 250 million cars. Donald Shoup, a professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA, notes that the total area of ​​parking per car in the United States is now greater than the area of ​​housing per person. Many of these spaces are less likely to be used in the future due to work-from-home trends, e-commerce, increasing urbanization, and the recessionary economic conditions which may make it more difficult for individuals to own, operate and pay to park their vehicle. A number of malls and big-box retailers have already closed or have been significantly affected by changing shopping habits. Planned closures of existing retail, restaurant and hospitality facilities due to current conditions in the coming months are expected to result in additional buildings and associated parking facilities being available for redevelopment. Additionally, ride-sharing services have reduced levels of private car ownership, and a future transition to self-driving vehicles will significantly add to an additional surplus of long-term parking spaces.

Historically, city zoning codes required a minimum number of parking spaces based on property use, contributing to the current parking glut. Atlanta’s zoning code was recently amended to address this issue by limiting (or outright eliminating in some cases) the minimum number of parking spaces and/or instituting parking maximums for certain uses or districts. zoning. The City is also considering parking fees to encourage downtown development and generate revenue for needed infrastructure improvements.

Structured parking lots are generally unsightly and impede urban walking. Such facilities are extremely expensive to develop and maintain, which in some cases can consume up to a third of the total construction costs of the project. Relaxed parking requirements and other regulatory innovations will lead to lower project costs (making future affordable housing projects more economically viable), foster opportunities for innovative project designs, establish more pleasant streetscapes walkable and aesthetic and will create increasingly valuable redevelopment opportunities for developers by converting underutilized housing. spaces to more productive uses.

Parking technologies are already being used to maximize the efficient use of existing facilities, including digital technologies to enable dynamic pricing and the use of sensors and data analytics. Mixed-use projects requiring parking lots use some of these technologies to establish flexible, shared parking regimes. For example, we have already seen car parks developed or otherwise used for sports venues that are not only used for home games, but also serve the needs of nearby retail customers, office tenants and retail tenants. apartments. Such arrangements usually require the thoughtful collaboration of developers, design and engineering teams, as well as lawyers to memorize the arrangement well.

Communities are increasingly converting underutilized parking facilities into valuable assets. Public-private partnerships have succeeded in redeveloping parking lots into complete mixed-use projects such as City Springs in Sandy Springs, much of which has been developed on the former location of a surface parking lot.

Innovative parking projects are underway nationally and internationally, including projects using a flexible design for new terraces through the use of flat floors, higher ceilings and exterior ramps to facilitate their later conversion into usable rental space and the reuse of existing underground garages as “last mile” logistics facilities.

The creative and adaptive reuse of parking lots will remain a key goal for developers and building owners in the years to come. The key for all investors is to stay ahead of these trends and be well positioned for incremental changes as demand for parking spaces declines. There are many opportunities for Atlanta to become a national leader in developing these innovative solutions.


Maxine Hicks is location manager for DLA Piper’s real estate practice and global co-chair of infrastructure, construction and transportation. She focuses her practice on real estate development with particular emphasis on large mixed-use and transit-oriented developments, including destinations for stadium, entertainment, hospitality, club and center projects. resort. She is a long-time member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and a member of ULI’s Community Development Council.

Andrew Much is a lawyer with DLA Piper and focuses his practice on commercial real estate transactions, with an emphasis on the development, acquisition, disposition, leasing, management and financing of complex mixed-use developments, communities planned, transit-oriented, stadium, hospitality, golf, marina, club and resort developments across North America. He is also a member of the Urban Land Institute.

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