By passing just one resolution, the Dallas City Council could show the world that we are a far-sighted city that wants to encourage the construction of buildings, the renovation of old ones and the conversion of vacant office space to residences. This bold decisions wouldn’t cost the city a dime. All it would take is a resolution saying, “Dallas is abolishing parking requirements in the central business district.”
Now, even in the parts of downtown where most of the buildings are vacant, the city requires one on-site parking space for every residential unit. Eliminating such restrictions would reduce the cost of a new or renovated building by more than 10 percent and would save the city from monstrous parking garages.
A city bureaucrat enforcing uniform parking requirements – regardless of the market, the cost or the negative impact on the environment – isn’t the way to create prosperity or develop opportunities for Dallas. Abolishing parking requirements downtown would be acknowledging that the developer, lender and occupant have the best idea of what kind of parking is needed on a project.
The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture recently sponsored a seminar featuring Peter Katz, author of The New Urbanism, Toward an Architecture of Community, and Ray Gindroz, an urban designer and architect from Pittsburgh. They not only spoke about life in downtown Dallas but reviewed many good redevelopment projects, such as Southwest Properties Union Bankers building in Deep Ellum (which is being converted to offices, residences and retail ) and the Santa Fe II building in the federal corridor (which has been proposed for residences).
During the seminar, we learned that the Santa Fe project was being hindered by the prospect of having to construct a garage directly above Jackson Street. Many of hour historic buildings, like this one, are tightly spaced and aren’t designed to accommodate underground parking. The consensus of the seminar participants was that if the city’s parking requirements were eliminated, not only would the Santa Fe building renovation be more successful, but the streetscape would be saved as well.
Without such requirements, more creative and collective parking arrangements could be developed. Every resident has a different threshold for inconvenience. For some people, cheaper rent and a downtown location may take precedence over on-site parking. As residential developments downtown become less speculative, more money can be spent on parking if a greater demand requires it. And once there is sufficient residential density downtown, other transportation options will become available.
Without the parking roadblock, a greater number of developers and interested Dallas citizens could take on the restoration of our city’s historic buildings and fill vacant lots with new buildings. For Dallas to recognize its potential, it needs to eliminate hindrances and unnecessary restrictions while encouraging the qualities that made Dallas a great city: innovation, creativity, daring and a generous spirit.