South Kensington Developer Takes Progressive Approach to Parking

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South Kensington neighbors want these parking spaces to be free for new residents, but they’re wrong. Philly (and private developers) need to unbundle the cost of parking from the cost of housing, exactly like this developer is doing:

The series of buildings would essentially ring most of the entire block made by American, Master, 2nd and Thompson streets, with the exception of a park space and pedestrian access mid-block on 2nd, vehicle access on Master and American, and a sizable public plaza at the corner of American and Thompson. Both the commercial space and some live/work units would face the plaza. Other live/work units will be located elsewhere on the property, Shapiro said, but exactly how many and where they would be located was not clear.

The courtyard space inside the ring of buildings consists of lawns, outdoor seating and other resident amenities – fire pits are the current thinking – and an additional 50 parking spaces. Parking would be leased – the cost would be separate from the rent.

Neighbors say they want more commercial uses on this site like retail stores, but they also say they want fewer apartment units and lower cost parking.

These are contradictory goals. If neighbors want the developer to build more retail spaces, they need to show the developer that there are really more customers in this area than they are projecting. Neighbors could say, you know what, this is really an underbuild for this site. It’s a CMX-3 zone, and you’re actually allowed to build many more housing units than you’re proposing. Why don’t you build out to the limit of the zoning envelope, and then there will be more built-in customers to support more retail businesses.

But that is not what the neighbors are saying. They want the parking to be free instead of leased, so that the new residents don’t use on-street parking spaces. And they want there to be fewer housing units, not more. Both of these requests would reduce the number of built-in retail customers on the site. Fewer housing units resulting in a smaller market for retail is pretty straightforward.

The parking economics are less well-understood, but basically when you require fewer parking spaces, developers build more housing. The neighbors aren’t asking for more off-street parking spaces, but they are asking for the 50 spaces to be free. Think about what’s going to happen. There will be 320 housing units, and 50 parking spaces. If the spaces are leased, as the developer has proposed, then the housing units are going to attract more households who don’t own cars. People won’t be moving in expecting to have a parking space. If the parking spaces are free, the units will attract more households with cars. They’ll take the gamble, thinking they can beat the other residents to the free spaces every day. Unpriced parking is what will bring more cars to the neighborhood, and that’s when you’ll get more off-street parking congestion.

(via Kellie Patrick Gates)

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

2 Responses to South Kensington Developer Takes Progressive Approach to Parking

  1. Michael Noda says:

    This site is 3 blocks from the Girard El station. How the heck many parking spots do these neighbors think they need? Kneejerk NIMBYism at its finest.

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