by John Riecke
The news that the Cherry Creek mall will begin charging to park in their garages has been met with varying levels of disbelief, derision, statements of personal boycotts, and threats to drive thirteen miles away to Park Meadows. One of the largest concerns for business owners on Broadway when a new bike lane was installed was that they would lose customers because people would find it confusing or difficult to park nearby, and within six hours of the official opening several complained that business was affected. City council just passed a ban on new developments in zone districts previously allowed to develop without parking.
I think we forget that parking is tacked-on to places that aren’t designed to make it easy for people to be there. Take a look at the two Google Earth aerial images below (they are the same scale). One is Park Meadows, a very popular mall with ample parking. The other is Capitol Hill, a very popular neighborhood which is famous for its lack of easy parking.
Capitol Hill has almost as many stores (and not just fashion clothing), definitely as many restaurants, but also an incredible number of museums, schools and, most importantly, people. One is built for people and one is built for cars. It should be obvious which is the more dynamic, resilient, and productive place. Or to be crass, one has in-built customers and one has asphalt.
I put it to you, would you rather drive to Park Meadows or walk around Cap Hill? I’d point out that there are no hidden gems in Park Meadows. There is no variety of architecture. No one has ever happily recommended to me a restaurant in the mall, or told me about a bar to visit in the multi-acre parking lot. I’ll never stumble upon a cool bookstore in the mall and share the discovery with my friends. Why does the presence of free and easy parking engender such passion? People should have such passion for places, not parking lots. A parking lot is not a place, and the presence of free parking doesn’t denote ease of access, quality of service, or quality of life. Often it denotes the opposite.
The easiest customer is the one that lives nearby. The parking least damaging to the fabric of a place is the parking that’s not needed. Don’t fight for parking, fight for people.
John Riecke holds a degree in Political Science from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. A resident of Capitol Hill, John is a volunteer for the local neighborhood organizations, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation and Capitol Hill United Neighborhood and enjoys studying economic systems and engaging with city planning efforts. John became interested in city-building like many do when he bought his first house.