With new plans for a twenty-eight-story tower at the Motor Mart garage, yet another parking structure in Boston is getting an upgrade. The list of garages being either renovated or torn down to make way for new development is long within the city. The demolition of the Garden Garage was completed over the summer along with a section of the Government Center garage making way for Bulfinch Place and let’s not forget Winthrop Square. All of these new developments are set to include parking but these prime locations were ripe for redevelopment during this building boom. This trend does, however, raise questions about the future of parking and transportation. With improvements to parking technology along with self-driving cars on the horizon, how will parking demands change in the coming years and how will garages adapt to new technology.
Pictured above: The proposed 28 story redevelopment of the Motor Mart Garage
For the short term, parking demand will still be high so developers are looking to new technology to maximize revenue and provide frictionless parking options for tenants. With parking requirements varying across the city, developers often need to find ways to include the required parking ratios in projects with limited space. In the dense neighborhood of South Boston, several developers have turned to City Lift parking systems to alleviate this issue. City Lift, based out of California, with offices in Boston, offers a variety of automated parking options to reduce a parking footprint by 40-80%. A City Lift system is currently in place at 39A Street, a 23 unit condo building in South Boston. The fully automated system installed on this project allows for 24 parking spaces in a two-level puzzle. Residents can easily access their cars with the swipe of a key fob. Cars at ground level in the grid can be accessed within 15 seconds and those on the second level only take 45 seconds. This technology has provided a benefit not only to developers and residents but also neighborhoods by getting more cars off the streets.
Parking system technology is also finally catching up with the rest of the tech world. Many parking systems are moving data to the cloud and upgrading to barcode scanners and other advancements. Developers of new or redeveloped projects are looking at these latest innovations to ensure the technology they are investing in now is future proof. Laz Parking offers consulting services that allow developers to maximize income, ensure expenses are being used efficiently, and customers are happy. They also utilize a business analytics tool to calculate rates using real-time data. Their thorough parking plans can also be used as a leasing tool, as was the case with the Arsenal Yards project. Mike Mihalow of Laz Parking, explained: “The operations plan we designed for Arsenal Yards allowed Boylston Properties to show tenants how parking would be handled at the project and helped them sign their anchor tenant for the project”. Properly designed parking plans combined with the right technology are an important asset to a community or development.
In the longer term, the question remains as to what will happen to garages if and when parking demand is drastically decreased. Architects across the country have started designing for a new wave of “future proof parking” structures. Instead of leaving cities with outdated buildings that can only be torn down to be rebuilt these new garages are designed to be easily converted to commercial or residential space after the parking is no longer needed.
The new designs focus on two key elements that will make the garage convertible, flat floor plates instead of inclined, and larger floor to ceiling heights, ideally 15 feet. While this change may be a bit more costly for developers up front they will be ahead of the curve in years to come. A few of these garages are already appearing across the country including the now under construction Fairview District Parking Garage in Houston designed by Gensler. The design includes the flat floor plates that will allow for conversion if parking demand dips. In Los Angeles, the proposed Avalon Bay Arts District includes a 1,000 car garage, however, plans include flat floors so space could be converted in the future. In Boston, WS development, the minds behind Seaport Square, are also in the on the trend, including a convertible garage space in their recent project in the booming neighborhood.
With the changing parking landscape and technology advancements, future proofing parking through technology or construction could be a smart investment for developers across Boston.