More Land Use Tricks: Coconut Grove Edition


My wife and I have reached that stage in life where we’re too old to go sky diving, parasailing, rock-climbing or otherwise risking our lives, but we’re too young to spend all day sitting and watching the world go by. So when we travel, we like to walk and observe. We’re in Coconut Grove right now, which is part of the Miami metropolitan area, and we have spent considerable time strolling through the older neighborhoods and along the retail corridors. One building that struck me was the structure above, which provides office and retail at the ground level with a parking deck above, all done with whimsical Gaudi-eque touches.

From a functional perspective, the building provides public parking while also maintaining the integrity of the walkable streetscape. The modernist architecture, which might stick out like a sore thumb in downtown Richmond or Old Town Alexandria, works perfectly in Miami.

I like to keep zoning mandates to a minimum, so I don’t know if I would require parking deck builders to build with street-level office or retail, but I sure would encourage it. Every locality should review its zoning code to ensure that it does not prohibit this elegant approach to reconciling walkability and automobility.

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6 responses to “More Land Use Tricks: Coconut Grove Edition

  1. Putting a parking deck up top will double or triple the cost of the building I would suspect. Talk about an “onerous” regulation!!! 😉

    • I don’t understand why providing for a parking deck would “double or triple” the cost of the building. Considering that a large portion of the ground space in downtown Richmond is dedicated to surface parking or parking decks, I agree that incorporating parking into the design of buildings should be encouraged.

      Some state buildings have parking decks in their lower levels. At one time, the plan for the parking deck for the new General Assembly building included having state offices or retail outlets on the ground level; I don’t know if that is still the plan.

      • It depends on the building structure. A typical one-story building has a structure only strong enough for it’s roof and HVAC. A multistory building with parking decks is designed for much higher structural loads.

        Regular office buildings only have to support people and office furniture. Parking structure have to support much higher structural loads.

        Government typically builds what it needs. Commercial/private sector has to build according to how much money it will generate and the more expensive the building – the more high-dollar the businesses that occupy it. That’s why most malls and shopping strips have asphalt and not decks.

        I’d LOVE to see EVERY retail commercial have a parking deck instead of parking lots which are impervious surfaces that then require storm water facilities to sequester the runoff. One building with parking deck occupies 1/2 the surface area so, in theory one half the storm water runoff facilities – as well as no oil, gasoline, anti-freeze liquids in the runoff.

        I don’t know the precise costs but pretty sure the higher loads would require a lot more steel and concrete than a typical one-story commercial building that only has to support a roof.

        • One building with parking atop may indeed occupy only half the square footage; but then what if, as a result, there are twice as many buildings packed into the CBD? Doesn’t follow that there will be a net benefit through reduced surface runoff. But I am for this format for the walkability gains alone, and if the surface runoff can be dealt with by other measures than pouring it into storm sewers, so much the better.

  2. Forcing the parking deck owners to build for retail or office would have probably put Tysons ahead of where it is now.

  3. The idea is to give developers the freedom to make their own cost-benefit trade-offs based on the specific circumstances at hand. If the economics are favorable, local zoning codes should permit — not prohibit — the configuration.

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