A Parking Garage Even (Some) New Urbanists Can Love

Architects, even New Urbanist architects, seem to love a parking garage recently built in Miami. In the video below, Andres Duany–the Antiplanner’s favorite New Urban architect–praises the garage as being as “beautifully designed a place as any piazza.”

In fact, Duany adds, “it is a piazza; it’s a public square in the air” where you can have a party, conference, ball, festival, or revolution. “I very much appreciate this, not only as a work of architecture but as a work of civic activism.”

What makes this garage different from ordinary parking garages? For one thing, it is a “mixed-use” project with retail shops on the ground floor (which is typical for parking garages), and a restaurant and penthouse apartment on upper floors (which is not typical). But I suspect what makes designers most excited is the variation in ceiling heights, from 8 to 34 feet. As difficult as it may be to believe, the high ceilings of some floors make them attractive for weddings and similar events.

Flickr photo by Joevare.

The concrete architecture blends in with neighboring buildings, but it is likely that the same concept of turning garages into public spaces could be applied to other architectural styles. Of course, some New Urbanists would probably object to any parking garage on principle. But if Duany is happy and the client that built the garage is happy, then the Antiplanner is happy.


19 thoughts on “A Parking Garage Even (Some) New Urbanists Can Love

  1. bennett

    Free Market New Urbanism?!?!?!? You mean that planners aren’t forcing people to have their weddings in a highrise parking garage?

    Enough with the sarcasm. I think your subtle jab at Calthorpe jab is completely wrong, as I have personally seen him advocate for structured parking garages (given the alternative). But I’m glad to see the Antiplanner happy with a New Urban outcome. Somehow I suspect that many of your more zealous supporters here do not share your sentiment.

    Also do I detect a hint of sarcasm in “Andres Duany–the Antiplanner’s favorite New Urban architect”? If not, then I’m terribly confused.

  2. metrosucks

    But there’s a difference between a developer building “new urbanism” of his own free will, and the government twisting arms and subsidizing new urbanism.

  3. bennett

    Get rid of traditional zoning (a.k.a the government twisting arms to keep lots big and housing lower in density) and this stuff will be popping up everywhere.

    Here in Austin developers are chomping at the bit to build stuff like this, but they have to get a variance, a special overlay zone, permission from adjacent neighborhoods, duke it out with city council, etc. (or build downtown). I would wager that if the development market were truly “free,” we’d be seeing a whole lot of big, tall, mixed use, New Urbanism inspired developments.

  4. metrosucks

    Doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s done of free will and not with government arm twisting/subsidies. There would still be plenty of low density suburban housing. Most people prefer that sort of lifestyle (I do not, I like living in the country).

  5. Sandy Teal

    It would be interesting to know how much it costs to park in that garage, comparable prices on the street and in the neighborhood, and if the garage breaks even. Perhaps the weddings and parties make it very profitable?

  6. LazyReader

    That garage thingy is nothing new. Chicago’s Marina City twin towers have garages on the bottom and apartments on the top. They look like that corn used for halloween decorations that you can’t eat.


    Heres someone who tried a little harder. Look up the Chase Bank Building in Fort Worth, Texas. The parking garage next to the building that was built there is actually kinda pretty. I just wish they’d finish off the facade on all sides. http://dmsas.com/#_project_69
    *there websites weird to use but oh well.

    As for the piazza concept. I wonder if the Antiplanner has ever watched the old documentary “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” by William H. Whyte. In it the film depicts business plazas in New York City & elsewhere that attempt to draw in people to congregate to these public spaces. After the repeal of the 1916 zoning laws in NYC regarding setbacks for building heights (which is why some buildings built in the 20’s and 30’s are often called wedding cakes, some of which have lobbies and observation decks which are far nicer looking for a wedding and receptions) the city passed new zoning in 1961 which used the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) regulation instead of setback rules. Another feature to the zoning was new buildings had adjacent public open space. If developers put adjacent public open space to their buildings, they could get additional area for their building as a bonus in the form of additional floors being permitted. Thus began the era of corporate plazas and architecture evolving to the “glass box” with famous towers like the Seagram and the Lever House. Anyway the film shows many examples of plazas built sunken underground or built above ground as miserable failures quick to fall to crime, drugs or vandalism requiring significant police supervision. The ones they built at grade or just slightly above it were largley successful. Look no further than New Yorks, Paley Park.

    I admit New Urbanism appeals to me slightly. But most of it’s caught up in the guise of Smart-Growth. Ironically, Duany’s often most celebrated example is Kentlands, Maryland. I looked it up on Google Earth and Bing maps and much to my surprise was a significant amount of single story big box stores, chain restaraunts, and parking garages and parking lots galore. Another example is Seaside, Florida. A master planned community……..the town has become the topic of slide lectures in architectural schools and in housing-industry magazines, and is visited by design professionals from all over the United States and was featured in the movie “The Truman Show”. It’s very beautiful with architecture styles ranging from Victorian, Neoclassical, Modern, Postmodern and Deconstructivism. It’s wonderful, assuming you could afford it. Lots sold for 15,000 dollars in the early 1980s, and slightly over a decade later, the price had escalated to about 200,000 just for lots!!!!. Today, most lots sell for more than a million dollars, and some houses top 5 million dollars. The effectiveness of the New Urbanist solution of mixed income developments lacks statistical evidence. These ritzy neighborhoods are swift to oust the very people they claim to want to help. New Urbanist developments, such as Poundbury, England has been disappointing, with surveys revealing high levels of car use anyway.


  7. Dan

    I see great acclaim for an urban garage that is obviously not profitable, but looks great in a one-time photograph. Yet a planner who arranges for a church parking lot next to a professional center, where the clients can efficiently share parking lots because of different business times, gets no credit at all. Those planning activities save literally tens of thousands of acres of pavement and millions of dollars because of clever planning.

    This is a great argument until you consider land economics and Ricardian rent. The land price/sf is much, much, much, much higher where the garage is than where the surface parking is. That is why the garage is built. The intensity is higher at the garage as well (why the rents are higher). This is part of the reason attention is paid to the disparaged activities in the first para: the amount of money changing hands is much higher around the disparaged activities.


  8. LazyReader

    I kinda agree with Dan…….However Duany is right about one thing, we treat parking garages like basements; It’s not exactly the social gathering place. Trying to find an additional use of what most consider a blight. But you need to have lots of parking even in major cities or the retail and commercial activities leave or fail to be attracted, so why cant parking structures be beautified. Duany mentions in Paris in the 60’s, Pompidou removed side parking on the famous streets and avenues and retail all but died there. It wasn’t until the parking was reestablished that the retail was able to regenerate. It helps because it’s actually safer that way. It helps to have a layer of dead metal to be parked there because it protects the pedestrians from moving vehicles; better they hit an empty parked car than a person. The Antiplanner also wrote about Portlands, Hawthorne area which is often viewed as a pedestrian friendly development. Yet this area is jammed with cars any time of day. If they only relied on foot traffic they’d fail to stay in business. Not to mention the fact that the people that live in the neighborhood typically own cars as they cant afford to do all their shopping there. Ironically they need cars to get to cheaper places. You’d be surprised how many people seldom can afford to patron the very stores they may work in. Parking structures are typically ugly as are most utilitarian buildings like factories or big box stores. What’s happened is utility has become a phrase that applies to everything. Our stores, our offices and our affordable housing. Modern architecture is fine in small doses. Call me nostalgic (which is weird as it was during a time I wasn’t even born) I’ve seen these old buildings that are amazingly detailed. The site below indicates sites that have been demolished and some show what took their place after.


    Even factories and warehouses use to look this way. Keep in mind this is a warehouse….


    This was a factory…..

    http://mht.maryland.gov/nr/NRDetailPhoto.aspx?propertyName=Bagby Furniture Company Building&photoLocation=nr1208p.jpg

    This was a brewery…..


    These were schools………..

    http://www.mht.maryland.gov/nr/NRDetailPhoto.aspx?propertyName=Public School No. 37&photoLocation=nr1233p.jpg
    http://mht.maryland.gov/nr/NRDetailPhoto.aspx?propertyName=Public School No. 99&photoLocation=nr1234p.jpg

  9. Dan

    However Duany is right about one thing, we treat parking garages like basements; It’s not exactly the social gathering place.

    There is a reason for this. It is the most basic function of their operation: they spew goop from their tailpipes, drip goop from their engines and transmissions, and evaporate goop from their fuel systems. No one wants to be around that for long.

    If they only relied on foot traffic they’d fail to stay in business. Not to mention the fact that the people that live in the neighborhood typically own cars as they cant afford to do all their shopping there. Ironically they need cars to get to cheaper places.

    This is a key point. And an excellent point.

    Why is this a key point?

    This is a key point because soon this could be a failed business model. If we cannot replace cheap energy with something remotely close in output with a much lower carbon footprint, these businesses will tank. As will many more businesses. Delay is not an adaptation or reorganization strategy.


  10. metrosucks

    If we cannot replace cheap energy with something remotely close in output with a much lower carbon footprint, these businesses will tank.

    Climate change troll spews more hateful, anti-progress drivel in his personal attempt to convince us to go back to the stone age. Very nice.

  11. LazyReader

    I’m not one to put to much concern into lowering my carbon footprint. I don’t even really think climate change is that big a deal. I’m the one who had to dig three feet of snow out of my front yard last winter. And the winter before that. They say we emit 30 gigatons of carbon annually, I won’t debate that number. The Earths atmosphere weighs nearly 5.6 quadrillion tons. Only 0.04 percent of it is CO2. That’s still over 2 trillion tons. So what’s a few billion tons of CO2 that’s only 1 percent of the total. And I’m not in the mood for spending trillions of dollars attempting to fight climate change when that money could be better spent investing in Third World markets and alleviating human poverty. If you wanna burn wood in a Una-bomber shack, be my guest. I can live with the sin of air conditioning, television, internet, microwave ovens and anything else I can plug into my wall socket. Millions of people die in the Third World every year because of respiratory ailments associated with combustion. Because they use fire as a principal source of lighting, cooking and heating. In Africa they go into tropical forests cutting down huge amounts of land, just to make charcoal and slaughter the gorillas for bush meat so park rangers don’t have any reason to protect the forests. If they don’t have cleaner burning natural gas or access to electricity and without the charcoal, they’ll simply burn whatever they get their hands on. They’ll burn cardboard, plastic, garbage, dried sewage or dung. Since they can’t dispose of flue gases properly the smoke stays low in the air. The result is far worse for local air quality than if a coal fired power plant existed just a few miles away.

    It was a OPEC representative who said……The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone. The oil age will not end by physical limitations. We’re raised and taught to think of the Earth as fragile when we see these pictures from space of this tiny blue marble. The fact is the Earth is way bigger than we realize. In a human timeframe which is nearly infinite. Technically it is finite, so is iron. Are we running out of iron? NO…..we use nearly a billion tons of iron annually. The Earth is nearly one third iron by mass. That’s 2 sextillion tons ( 2 billion, trillion tons); the amount we use is a drop in the bucket. The Earth possesses vast amounts of buried hydrocarbons, litterally equivalent to trillions and trillions of barrels. The question is can you get them out? At what price? And is it technologically or enviromentally feasible? The tar sands of Alberta, Canada alone contain enough petroleum to run the worlds needs for the next century. There’s the cathrates frozen methane on the bottom of the sea on nearly every continent. There’s enough geothermal energy to provide significant amounts of electricity to power home and industry. Theoretically we can recycle oil from garbage and used petroleum products using net energy from such renewable sources to supply the carbon chemistry in our plastics and pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Near future we may recycle captured CO2 to make these products as well. Carbon Dioxide will be treated like a resource worth extracting instead of a waste product. Ultimately we will never run out of oil.

  12. metrosucks

    It’s a very good argument, LazyReader. Its only flaw is that in your scenario, the entire world isn’t handed on a plate to planners so that they can “save” it.

  13. LazyReader

    Peter Huber, co-author of the book “The Bottomless Well”. They explain why demand will never go down, why most of what we think of as “energy waste” actually benefits us; why more efficient cars, engines, and bulbs will never lower demand, and why energy supply is practically infinite. In the automotive sector, gas prices matter less and less, and hybrid engines or next generation electric motors will most likely lead us to cars propelled by the coal-fired grid or other energy sources. As for the much-maligned power grid itself, it’s the worst system we could have except for all the proposed alternatives. Expanding energy supplies mean higher productivity, more jobs, and a growing GDP. Across the board, energy isn’t the problem, energy is the solution.

  14. Dan

    Lazyreader, go ahead and increase your medication dosage from, say, 5mg to 8mg, and continue to take it daily like you do now. Get back to us in a couple years on how you feel. Such tiny numbers don’t mean anything, right? So go ahead and increase that dosage, because whats a few mg?

    Nonetheless, willful denialism aside, as soon as the GOP has no power, and Big Carbon has less power, there will be carbon legislation. It won’t matter that some people refuse to believe in physics, because they will be taxed regardless of their beliefs. Hopefully there will be a tax shift off of, say, labor and onto consumption to offset the new tax, and maybe ending carbon subsidies will help the shift as well.


  15. LazyReader

    I get tired of people telling us how humanity has never faced anything this serious, and then predicting in minute detail how bad things are gonna be. Climate Change, Peak Oil, etc. Where does apocalyptic thinking come from. China is adding currently 100 gigawatts of coal fired electricity a year and other countries are soon following in it’s footsteps. We rich people of the planet can’t stop the other 6.5 billion people from burning the tons of carbon they have within easy reach. Let alone make a dent in global emissions. They involve too much involvment by very poor people that can’t easily change their ways. And those poor people are also components to the global economy. And if we are dumb enough to let carbon fears send our jobs to their shores and they’ll grow even faster and carbon emissions would grow faster still. Over-population is a largely Third World issue. In First World countries unlike animals in the wild, we don’t procreate massively. We have fewer children and spend more of our resources on the ones we have. We will never be able to force those people to leave their coal, oil, and minerals in the ground. It’s too valuable. It’s all they have, they’ll drill it, dig it, find a market for it and we’ll burn it. Those poor countries have easy access to trillions of tons of coal and oil and access to the other carbon sinks, the rainforests. They will squeeze it cheap unless something cheaper comes along and that’s gonna take a lot of ingenuity. Something the free market not the government knows a awful lot about. Those poor people control the carbon and are responsible for most of it. The rich burn more individually, but those billions of poor have more children. Their promiscuity has beaten our gluttony. And the poor countries have made it clear they are the least bit interested in spending for a low ‘carb-on’ diet. It’s whether or not the markets can give us something cheaper than carbon fuels. They just have so much energy density and it’s so cheap. Renewable energy is typically too low in energy density. Windmills can be as high as 50 stories with blade diameters wider than a 747’s wingspan, yet generates a miniscule 2 or 3 megawatts. You get the same power from a diesel generator that could fit in your bedroom. A Boeing 747 needs over a hundred megawatts to stay in the air. Google is building 100 megawatt servers and data centers just to move your emails around. Just meeting New York Citys energy needs would require nearly 50 thousand windmills spinning at full speed around the clock, scattered across the state because you need more that’s needed to make sure they’ll be in the windy spots at any given day. What the hell was the mayor Bloomberg thinking when he said you could just tuck them into Manhattan. There would be no room for actual skyscrapers. These energy sources are very dilute. Look at Moores Law which shows how efficiency, speed and power of solid state electronics improves each year and the costs are cut in nearly in half. Renewable technologies are not moving down in the declining cost curves we would see with laptops and cell phones. When you replace conventional with renewable the devices get bigger not smaller and costs rise instead of decline. Jobs will just go to where energy is cheap. Green jobs means Americans paying other Americans to start lynching carbon while the rest of the world is building power plants and factories where the rest of the world is less efficient and careful. Those poor countries will not trade 3 cent coal for 15 cent wind or 30 cent solar and trying to force those expensive technologies on other desperately poor nations while we get to keep the good life is amount to ethnic cleansing. When you chase fantasies, you eventually get a bloody nose when you run into a wall.

  16. Dan

    Complaining doesn’t make physics and ecology go away.

    Nor does lack of command of the facts:

    Renewable technologies are not moving down in the declining cost curves we would see with laptops and cell phones.

    GE Sees Solar Cheaper Than Fossil Power in Five Years
    By Brian Wingfield – May 26, 2011 2:58 AM MT

    Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co. (GE)

    “If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office. The 2009 average U.S. retail rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity ranges from 6.1 cents in Wyoming to 18.1 cents in Connecticut, according to Energy Information Administration data released in April. …


    Ah, well. The GOP has a reason for trying to close NREL, you know.


  17. LazyReader

    The International Energy Agency has shown that investment in renewables has gone down not up. But the price you have to beat is 3 cent coal. And even coal is getting more efficient. 50 years ago it took 10 pounds of coal to run a light bulb for 1.5 hours. Today we do the same thing for less than half a pound. They may end up bringing costs down to 2 cents. I’m in favor of research and investment but deployment in the present not really. Right now we get roughly less than half of one percent our energy from renewables and that will be expected to grow to 1.7 percent by 2030. Maybe 2.8 percent if we try really really hard. Their was a report saying we could have had mass renewable energy by now? That report was written 50 years ago……. Someday we’ll get there but not now. Like midevel priests there exist carbon brokers selling indulgences to forgive your carbon sins. Running you 100 dollars a ton. I have no doubt climate change will cause problems. Not disasters but problems.

  18. Dan

    The International Energy Agency has shown that investment in renewables has gone down not up.

    Who feeds you these blatant and obvious lies, and why do you credulously and gullibly believe this blatant hokum? Wow. How sad.

    The Bloomberg NEF “Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2010” states that “investment in sustainable energy reached $162 billion in the year 2009, the second highest figure ever, after 2008’s revised $173 billion (see Figure 7 in the report). Although the 2009 figure was down by 7%, it was higher than the $157 billion achieved in 2007, at the height of the world economic boom, and it was nearly four times the 2004 total of $46 billion. The setback in sustainable energy investment was relatively mild given the severity of the world economic downturn and the caution that the banking crisis and stock market fall created among many types of investors.

    Global Clean Energy Investment Reached Record $243 Billion in 2010

    Washington, DC – 03/29/2011 – Global clean energy finance and investment grew significantly in 2010 to $243 billion, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. China, Germany, Italy and India were among the nations that most successfully attracted private investments, according to new research released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    China continued to solidify its position as the world’s clean energy powerhouse. Its record $54.4 billion in investments in 2010 represents a 39 percent increase from 2009. Germany was second in the G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100 percent increase in investment to $41.2 billion**.


    ** http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=329368

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