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Parks & Open Space
How do we protect open space under the pressure to expand cities? Can we reclaim parking lots or shopping malls for parks?
What is driving change?
Our past and current reliance on single occupancy automobiles for transportation has had a strong impact on land use patterns and the amount of land we use for parking. The change in parking demand due to transportation network companies (TNCs) and eventually autonomous vehicles (AVs) could drastically impact zoning and development regulations and reshape our land use patterns by shifting where we store vehicles (parking lots and curb space), and how much land we use for automobile-oriented functions.
With the increased availability of both shared micromobility programs and on-demand rides, modal shifts may occur. The deployment of AVs may also lead to a decrease in personal vehicle ownership, which may reduce the amount of land used for auto-oriented purposes such as gas stations, dealerships, and others. These changes may free up land to be redeveloped for other uses.
The expansion of e-commerce has coincided with closures in brick-and mortar stores. Store closures create vacancies and redevelopment opportunities, and cities may need to consider how they zone for retail space.
What Could Happen?
- A decreased demand for parking could free up space for redevelopment in urban areas. Parking lots and parking garages could be converted into parks and open spaces, while street parking could be transformed into “parklets,” wider sidewalks, or linear parks.
- With the growth of e-commerce and the decline of retail, large retail parcels could be redeveloped. Former big box stores and shopping malls could be transformed into stand-alone parks or open spaces. They could also be integrated into existing open spaces or larger greenbelts, or repurposed into residential, commercial, or mixed-use places with integrated parks or open spaces.
EVIDENCE TO DATE
- The conversion of street parking into parks has been ongoing for well over a decade now. Designers in San Francisco first introduced the concept of what would become “parklets” in 2005, with the first permanent parklet installed in 2010. Since then, a number of cities including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Mexico City, and Auckland, New Zealand have invested in a variety of related repurposing efforts.
- Successful conversions of malls and box stores into parks and open spaces have already happened. In Columbus, Ohio a former mall was transformed into a six-acre park and event space, although the mall’s underground parking garage was retained. In Seattle, a sprawling mall parking lot was converted into a mixed-use development with a new park designed to help restore a creek for local salmon. In Tainan, Taiwan a former mall was transformed into a park and urban lagoon. If retail continues to shrink, cities will likely have plenty of opportunities to continue this trend.
What to do
More about what to do »
Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Parks & Open Space:
Policies, pilots, and approaches
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