Alternate Occupancy | Increasing Urban Density Through Reuse of Existing Parking Garages
Brown, Andrew Burdette
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The stand-alone parking garage exemplifies the twentieth century paradigm of the American city's reliance on car-centric infrastructure and encouragement of suburban sprawl. Over the past 100 years, streets have transitioned from the realm of the pedestrian to the domain of the automobile. The overabundance of cars in urban centers is a primary cause of congestion, pollution and diminished pedestrian safety in our cities. The car is a systemic problem in our culture; solutions must come from a variety of disciplines. Inexpensive and easy access to parking garages perpetuates the status quo. Car-centric twentieth century city planning is counter to twenty-first century trends in urbanization, energy policy and sustainability. A reduction in parking spaces will reduce car numbers, encourage better mass transit and greater density in urban centers, and help move society towards a healthier, safer, more environmentally responsible way of life. The stand-alone parking garage, whose sole function is the storage of cars, is an ideal place to begin to challenge the existing paradigm. Removal of parking capacity will simultaneously decrease the number of cars entering city centers and allow this space to instead be allotted to high-density mixed-use development. Instead of contributing to the building industry's growing waste stream, garages can be adaptively reused. Converting parking garages makes use of the energy embodied in the existing structures and saves time and money associated with demolition and new construction. Despite some challenges, reuse will reinforce a new, more enlightened way of thinking about the built environment. This thesis argues that many existing parking garages can viably and effectively be converted to fulfill new functions in urban centers. This thesis explores the feasibility of adaptively reusing the existing parking garage on the west side of 1st Avenue at Columbia Street, in downtown Seattle. A combination of 140 units of housing and 25,000 square feet of commercial space inserted into the existing structure will convert the block-long parking garage into a mixed-use development. This will beneficially increase density while decreasing the accommodation of cars in Seattle, reducing the negative environmental impacts of car-centric infrastructure on the built environment.
- Architecture