The following is a guest post by Cincinnati’s resident transit map maven and Pendleton resident Nate Wessel. View his various maps at his Cincy Map website, read his musings on all things transit on the Cincy Transit Blog or like the Cincinnati Transit System Map facebook page. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Easing Development Requirements for a More affordable, Pedestrian-Friendly OTR
The City of Cincinnati is considering the elimination of the longstanding requirement that almost any new or renovated building in Over-The-Rhine must include on-site car parking.
Basically, the requirement, actually dozens of pages of highly articulated regulations built into the zoning code (Chapter 1425) and applying to the entire city, states that every new (or repurposed) building must provide, on the same lot as the building itself, a certain number of parking spaces as a condition of it’s zoning approval. That means that in most cases, anyone constructing a new building or renovating an old one would be subject to the requirement that some space be set aside on the site for a parking lot.
Six city council members motioned on April 10th that these rules be removed for Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. Since then, the Cincinnati Department of Planning and Buildings has been working on gathering research, getting public input and drafting a recommendation for council which would still have to approve the measure for it to take effect.
From the motion:
Parking requirements for residential, commercial and retail significantly increases the cost of development because it requires developers to purchase additional land for parking or include parking in the structure of a new building. Both significantly add to the cost of develoment and in some cases result in the destruction of historic structures in order to create parking lots. The cost is passed on to consumers, making urban living or starting a small business more expensive. Parking requirements are a major obstacle to the redevelopment of the urban core, the reutilization of existing buildings, and the conversion of buildings to residential, commercial and retail uses.
In a dense neighborhood like OTR, there isn’t much if any room for parking on many parcels. This can mean that the development of some properties for many or any uses is simply impossible without purchasing an adjacent parcel and using it as a parking lot. In some cases, that means tearing down the adjacent building, or not doing the project at all. In cases of new development on small enclosed lots, for a project to get off the ground, it typically has to invest between $15,000 and $30,000 per space for the construction of structured above- or below-ground parking.Donald Shoup. The High Cost of Free Parking. In the case of residential structures, the requirement for parking is at least one space per unit, potentially pushing up the cost of new condos in a small development by as much as $30,000 or more for each unit. For some people, a $30,000 garage is worth the price. For others it isn’t. The elimination of the requirement would also allow the eventual development of existing parking lots that currenly fulfill the requirement for adjacent buildings into actual buildings themselves that contribute something more substantial to the urban fabric.
Eliminating the requirement would give people the option to build in a more space-efficient manner at a lower cost. It would potentially lower the cost of living for people who don’t want or need private parking spaces, and over time it would allow the possibility of a denser, more walk-able, and more transit-oriented Over-The-Rhine.
Developers will continue to build parking spaces with many new units. There’s no indication that the elimination of the requirement would lead to a flood of new buildings with no parking at all. These days it often makes financial sense for a developer to bundle a parking space or two with a new unit so that tenants with cars and money to spare can have a secure place to store them. But that won’t always be that case. And with the rate of development in OTR, now is the time to start allowing the development of a denser, more walkable neighborhood with less cars, more buildings, and more people.