As land values grow and cities promote mixed-use developments that include parking beneath the principal development use — office, retail, hotel, and residential – underground parking structures are becoming increasingly frequent. Underground parking also allows the city or developer to maximize available street frontage for retail and commercial applications. Though more expensive, subterranean parking has numerous long-term advantages, including conserving excellent real estate for other more downtown-friendly uses, providing easy, conveniently placed parking, and eliminating parking from street frontage.
Placing parking below the structure or underground can offer several other advantages. These include:
1. More Available Land
By placing parking below the structure or underground, the space available for other uses on the ground floor can be increased. Without the need for the building to sit above the parking, more space for the building is created.
2. Potential for Mixed-Use Development
With the ability to offer more compact, more efficient office and retail spaces, underground parking can aid in the creation of a mixed-use development, allowing for a variety of uses in one building.
3. Lower Structural Costs
With the need to build the structure above the parking eliminated, the structural costs for the building are reduced. This gives the building owner the ability to maximize the retail space on the ground floor.
4. Less Crime
As a result of easier access control, underground parking reduces crime when compared to big, open parking lots.
5. Pollution Control
With the car parked in an underground bunker, there is less pollution and noise than a surface parking lot. The cars are not only out of sight, but they are out of mind as well.
6. Pedestrian Safety
Underground parking offers the potential to increase pedestrian safety through reduced traffic, separate vehicle and pedestrian entrances, and increased police visibility.
Additional Factors to Consider
There are many issues to consider when building an underground parking structure. Among the most important are location, size, and type of structure.
On a smaller scale, the use of existing structures, such as basements and/or backyard space, can also be utilized. Before their implementation, considerations such as proximity to the building and the amount of space available must be made. Reduced curb-front visibility from the street may not be desirable for retail or commercial businesses. Additionally, the cost of converting existing space to an underground parking structure can greatly outweigh the cost of building new.
On a larger scale, location becomes a major factor. For example, an underground parking structure may not provide the same benefits in a town of only a few thousand people as it would in one of several hundred thousand. So, municipalities should consider the goals of development, their current overall condition, and the current or expected demand for parking spaces. Another factor is the overall capacity, design, and condition of the current parking facilities in the area.
Some of the steps to making this a successful development include ensuring the parking spaces are easily accessible and placed in the most convenient locations. Additionally, the construction of the structures themselves should incorporate a variety of architectural styles, keeping with the character of the community as well as providing ample lighting, security, and other necessary features.
Finally, it is important to remember that there are many different ways to build and maintain an underground parking structure. As with anything, it is essential to look at the costs and benefits of each choice, and to weigh them against the other options available.
Though it is expensive to build, underground parking can offer a number of long-term benefits to a community. Because the benefits to a community are so numerous, it is clear that underground parking can be a great asset. By considering all of the options prior to construction and carefully planning the overall layout of the structure, underground provides the perfect place for a community to park.
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