surface parking to residential

Wasted space for parking. This was once residences, and should be again.

Part two of posts about O Street activation, but also of more general applicability. See also my related post No more pure office buildings downtown.

The activation of O Street under the CADA-led ‘Envision O Street: A Community Planning Process to Transform the Streetscape‘ effort will be only partially successful unless there are a lot more residents along O Street and the adjacent neighborhood to activate it. As it currently stands, the street is largely dead evenings and weekends. Even the homeless folks don’t much like hanging out there.

So, forthwith, my modest proposal. All surface parking lots along N, O, P and Q streets will be transferred to CADA and developed for residential and/or mixed use. These developments might even include some office space, but no development would be purely office. We have enough state office space as it is, and we have enough parking garages (decks) as it is. Significant parts of the parking decks are empty even on weekdays, and they are completely wasted space the rest of the time. Many of them are even locked up evenings and weekends, so they could not be used even if people wanted them to be used. The state seems to not care about whether downtown and its part of midtown (extending to 17th Street) are dead. It sees downtown as just a collection of office buildings, and is fine with the buildings and streets being empty off work hours. The state also believe that it is their responsibility to provide unlimited parking for their employees, no matter how much that parking decreases the livability of the places they work. I’m not sure if these attitudes come only from DGS (Department of General Services) which manages state property, or is a more general view, but it is wrong. The state should be encouraging workers to get out of their cars and onto transit (light rail runs on O Street), bicycles and foot, not providing them free and low cost parking. The state should be encouraging livability, not thwarting it.

All surface parking lots along N, O, P and Q streets will be transferred to CADA and developed for residential and/or mixed use.

No more pure office buildings downtown

The state is building several new office buildings downtown. Close to where I live, the former building at O St and 12th is gone, and will be replaced with a modern office building, and the block between O and P and 7th and 8th is seeing a new building. There are others planned, and there is a plethora of state-owned surface parking lots (a travesty of land use if ever there was one) that could be developed.

It is good, in a sense, to see the state aggregating scattered offices into more centralized locations. But what is not good is that the state is not building any housing to go with the offices. So most employees will still be driving in from the suburbs, creating air pollution and rush hour congestion in the process, while contributing nothing to life in the central city. Almost every new building, whether public or private, has some retail, at least a corner and sometimes the whole ground floor. But integrated housing and office is rare.

So, my modest proposal (in the Swiftian sense) is that every office building of one-quarter block or larger include housing for at least one-quarter of the employees of the building. Not just the daytime office drones, but the maintenance staff as well. Some percentage should be required affordable, probably 20% to cover the lower income maintenance and clerical staff. I am not saying the the residences should be limited to employees of the building, I’d leave it up to each building manager how they wanted to allocate housing.

I have mixed feelings about whether this should be required of private developments. Certainly there should be codes and city support for accomplishing the same objective in private development, but requirements, not so sure. But state owned buildings, yes, absolutely, every one of them.

I lived in midtown, close to the downtown boarder, for seven years, and have now lived in downtown, near the midtown border, for just under a year. I moved all of five blocks. These two places might as well be in different cities. Downtown is dead, dead, dead at night and on weekends, whereas midtown is alive weekdays, evenings, and weekends. The difference? I think it is primarily the lack of housing in downtown. Office towers do not make for a livable, walkable place.