Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Park It Mister

 By Phil Mevert

Growing up in a small village/community the issue of parking rarely comes up. There are only a handful of times that parking is indeed an issue which are the three annual downtown celebrations and maybe a few high school basketball games. Even though they do not have many massive parking lots, putting a few in would not be too much of an issue given the amount of available land. When you get to larger cities similar to St. Louis, Chicago, NYC and LA, and even the smaller cities such as Grand Rapids, MI Parking becomes a major issue as the value of open lots for buildings is far greater.
A common solution for inner city parking is to build parking garages and these can take up a lot of space by themselves but do they have to? This semester for the Grad studio project we were tasked with a group master plan as well as developing our own individual buildings of either a hotel or an apartment complex in a downtown setting. We had the choice of doing the project in either Chicago, IL or Grand Rapids, MI. I chose Grand Rapids for my site which is just north of a major interstate/highway as well as along the Grand River and a major arena is also on the site so there are plenty of parking lots between the arena and the riverfront. The site for my proposed apartment complex (130 units and approximately 200,000+ square feet and 20 stories high (240’-0”)) is currently a massive parking lot of about 200 plus spaces. 

As you can see in this photo my building along with the riverfront development covers up the existing parking so the question is how do we replace the parking and add in some for the new residents that will be occupying the proposed apartment complex? Luckily with where the bedrock is on the site and how tall my structure is I would need to go down to bedrock anyway so it makes perfect sense to put in an underground parking garage. However, as you can see the site is fairly tight with space so there would not be much room for a traditional garage with ramps and driving lanes and all that jazz. Another good thing with the studio is the fact that Shannon McDonald is one of the instructors and has a vast knowledge of parking facilities and pretty much wrote the book on them (check out wbdg.org Parking Facilities). Professor McDonald suggested looking up Automated parking and in doing so I stumbled across Robotic automated parking systems which are a vast improvement upon traditional automated systems in that they do not require a track and can have free movement in all directions.

This system allows less travel lanes and can have 66% of the parking filled before having to move cars around. This system allows cars to be park right next to each other without the fear of door dings. There is an old saying that you can fix stupid (aka people driving cars in parking lots/garages) if you eliminate the stupid from the situation you are almost fixing the problem which is what these robotic systems allow. The pluses of these systems are great and the cost can almost wash out when you factor the compact space they allow you to design to and the elimination of ramps and driving lanes. Some of the negatives for these systems that I can think of is when someone is shopping especially this time of year and has a lot of bags that they have to go have the car retrieved and put the bags in the car and then send it back down can take a little more time than just walking up to the vehicle and putting bags in before continuing shopping. I could also see a lot of frustration with black Friday shoppers that are in such a hurry and these systems causing traffic jams of people waiting to pull their car in to be placed but in my opinion it is still better than driving around a lot looking for a spot and wasting gas. Anywho, here is a link to a video of the system I found and really like you should check it out when you have time. http://boomerangsystems.com/products/roboticvalet/

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