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West side of downtown Rochester is mostly parking lots.


Like Rochester, downtown Minneapolis has too many surface parking lots. Unlike Rochester, Minneapolis is studying what to do with all that asphalt. Surface lots don’t bring in as much tax revenue as buildings and they’re pretty darn ugly. Many of the lots start emptying out by noon.

The Star Tribune reports:

The parking lots multiplied after World War II, when Minneapolis and other American cities pursued policies hostile to urban development and friendly to suburbanization, said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at University of Minnesota.

Many of downtown’s buildings were torn down to make way for parking…

Rochester’s downtown is similarly dotted with surface lots, giving some streets a pockmarked feel. I believe Frontier Field never sparked any development because it’s surrounded by a sea of asphalt. The Star Tribune article has a similar observation about the Vikings’ stadium:

City leaders do not want to make the same mistakes they did with the Metrodome, said Fisher, who is also co-chairman of the stadium implementation committee.

“We absolutely cannot have just big asphalt surface parking lots around the new stadium or we will have failed,” said Fisher, suggesting they find a more creative, urban way to allow tailgating.

Minneapolis barred more downtown lots in 1999. It was around then Monroe County imploded the Hotel Rochester to make way for…parking.

But Rochester is making some progress on filling in lots, as the city sold one at Main and Plymouth for a condo development.

Finding solutions to downtown parking doesn’t mean loading up on surface lots. Public transportation, carpooling and above and underground garages are all options. Underground parking is expensive, but many developers now consider them part of the cost of building on desirable downtown land.

Links of the Day:

– The Rochester area unemployment rate is now above 8 percent, as more people jump into the job market.

– The state lawmaker pay raise could still happen, but probably not until after the November election.

– Colleges are teaching mom and dad how to let go of their college freshman. (My parents couldn’t wait to hit the road after saying goodbye.)

– The Vatican is about to name its first American Indian saint. She’s from the Mohawk Valley.

8 Responses to Too Many Parking Lots!

  1. July 25, 2012 at 9:22 am Ben Campanelli responds:

    return on investment for a piece of vacant land used as a parking lot is more than one with an income yielding building on it due to tax assessments and regulatory climate in many modern American cities.

    Also, if land is marginally viable for revenue producing improvements, often parking lots are the only option to get some return on the parcel.

    • July 26, 2012 at 12:10 am Jason Haremza responds:

      Exactly. Buildings only bring in more tax revenue for cities if there’s actually a market for commercial and residential space AND if that market is willing to pay the rental/purchase prices necessary for developers to make a return on said investment. Sadly, surface parking is still the most lucrative land use for a lot of small-medium sized city downtowns.

  2. July 25, 2012 at 9:28 am Ben Campanelli responds:

    The perfect example of the above reality in downtown ROC is the triangle parking lot parcel caddy-corner to the Eastman Theater on Main and Gibbs. It just doesn’t lend itself to low density residential development, especially one that includes dedicated parking for every unite.

    many have tried over the years, but few were chosen, especially when they include a low-rise improvement to help cover the fixed costs of taxes and upkeep. So, it remians a lucrative parking lot, especially on theater nights and during the business day.

    • July 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm Rachel responds:

      You’re wrong. The only reason it’s still a parking lot is the Cultural Commission has been seeking the right development, not because it’s a money-maker. The U of R bought it and has a few years to do something with it before the CC takes it back.

  3. In the major overhaul of our zoning/land use plan here in Buffalo, we’re looking at doing away with minimum parking requirements for development project (both new builds & rehabs). That will help eliminate one of the reasons for both creating and keeping a “stockpile” of surface parking lots, in that developers will no longer have to create new surface parking (e.g. buying two adjacent buildings & demolishing one for parking) or lease a dedicated amount of parking from a nearby surface lot, in order to do a project.

    • July 26, 2012 at 12:07 am Jason Haremza responds:

      I’m reiterate my well-worn argument that eliminating parking requirements does not eliminate parking. Rochester has not required parking downtown since 1975. You cannot just eliminate requirements; you must actually prohibit new surface parking.

  4. July 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    10 years ago, Buffalo’s alternative newspaper “Artvoice” reported that much of downtown Buffalo was devoted to parking garages and lots.

  5. Great post! I cringe every time I pass one of downtown’s many, many surface parking lots. I have to look at the massive surface lot fronting Frontier Field every day. I would love to see buildings in that space. That, and more development at the Plymouth/Main intersection (including Washington Street). Question: In order to increase demand for downtown properties, Rochester needs more…what? Young professionals? More people in-migrating from other cities? More venture capital? Other…?

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