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What are some considerations when planning parking for central business districts and municipalities?

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A parking structure located in a downtown or urban environment will attract the widest variety of users, making it critical to serve a variety of needs in the best way possible. A parking structure in this environment needs to cater to the needs of people who work in the offices, stores, and restaurants in the area, as well as the patrons who visit them. Further, it will also need to include parking for those who live in the residential housing areas that may be located nearby. In a downtown or urban setting it is important to maximize land use.

As space is often limited, creativity in the design process is essential. Parking density is vital to the success of a downtown or urban environment. When a large amount of parking is concentrated in one area, it frees space for more offices, restaurants, stores, and even parks and landscaped areas for people to gather. This also creates a sense of community and excitement, which will encourage people to keep coming back.

One of the most successful utilization of parking structures in downtown and urban areas is the implementation of mixed-use design. Mixed-use is one of the most popular trends in parking design today, and the towns and cities which implement successful mixed-use design have seen it have a positive impact on the businesses and communities in which they are located. It is essential that these areas have adequate and convenient parking, and one of the most logical methods of incorporating parking into busy downtown areas is to include a variety of destinations within or close to the parking structure. When planning and designing a mixed-use parking structure, the inclusion of retail or offices at grade, or residential units above, has proven to be successful at attracting people to the area, and is often very profitable to the owner.

Mixed-use elements also help to downplay the appearance of the parking garage, making the entire structure much more visually appealing. Another important consideration when designing parking today is to think about how a new structure will blend with the fabric of the existing community.

Today, developers and municipalities place a high level of importance on preserving the look and feel of the existing site and district context, while making additions to keep up with increasing numbers of people, as well as the need to replace aging and outdated structures. In addition, mixed-use and shared parking structures spread out the financial burden, and minimizes the number of spaces needed.

*Federal, State, and Local codes govern most of these requirements and should be thoroughly investigated. Data presented herein should be considered guidelines only.  For more specific information and assistance with implementation of these guidelines, please contact THA Consulting, Inc. via email at