Detroit’s slow death by parking lot

downtown Detroit parking map

Rob Linn’s depressing map of downtown Detroit parking has been making the rounds.  I found a few glimmers of hope, however, from selected commenters on Emily Badger’s post on the map (at Atlantic Cities) who point out now-vibrant cities that had a similar problem but managed to reverse the trend.

From Gerald Fittipaldi:

Washington, DC, similar to Toronto, has overhauled the parking situation over the past 20 years. 20 years ago downtown DC had numerous surface parking lots. They were very uninviting and made people feel unsafe to walk around. Today there are virtually no surface lots in downtown DC. They have been replaced by residential and commercial buildings. It goes without saying that DC is now thriving economically and land values have skyrocketed.

Detroit needs to grab the bull by the horns and tear down its surface lots one by one. To deal with parking demand Detroit needs to raise the cost to park.

From Jared R:

Believe it or not, downtown Portland, OR looked like this, as did most now-vibrant places in the U.S. The best way to reverse urban decay is to build retail with housing above at the sidewalk on existing parking lots… Rebirth = building on parking lots.

And from Asarochester:

Funny downtown Toronto once looked like this but over the last 20 years virtually all surface parking has been converted into medium to high density residential housing, with tens of thousands of new condos and around 50,000 new residents since 2000.

Detroit is never going to be DC, Portland or Toronto — in the most optimistic scenario, downtown will eventually be a large historical site like the Acropolis with a village attached, surrounded by natural areas — but a change in attitudes could eventually help us make progress in reclaiming downtown land for productive uses.



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