By Dom Nozzi
July 30, 1998
Often we hear a big pitch for more parking downtown.
Today, I was giving some thought to a principle that I read about in an urban design book recently:
[this is a paraphrase]
“The further you park from your destination or front door of your house, the more vibrant the place (or your neighborhood) is. This is because when you park too near your destination or front door, there is little or no time for serendipitous meetings/greetings with friends, strangers or neighbors.
“By contrast, when you have to walk (from an on-street spot, a lot a block or so away, etc.), there is more time and opportunity for you to socialize — thereby lending a more vibrant character to the area.”
What often happens in a downtown is that the developers of a downtown project who are calling for more downtown parking are striving to make their project the exciting destination, whereas the community is striving (or at least SHOULD be striving) to make the entire downtown the exciting destination.
Unfortunately, these objectives can conflict. In a sense, by implementing such an objective, the developer is making their project an internalized shopping mall that turns its backs on — and ignores — the downtown.
And that is detrimental to the overall vision for downtown health. By striving to make the entire downtown our exciting destination, we can focus our design efforts on making the public realm — the sidewalks, the plazas, the outdoor cafes, the streets, etc. — wonderful, vibrant, safe, convenient places.
And by doing that, every downtown business benefits. It’s synergistic, and in the public interest.
And probably in the best interests of downtown developers, since I don’t believe they can make it on their own without a healthy downtown.