Left unchecked, parking lots are like syphillis to architecture and commerce.
Need proof?Overton Square
Here's a Google
eye view of Overton Square's parking lots (marked in red):
Note especially the massive block-square surface on the bottom. Since the founding of Overton Square in the early 1970's, the buildings in this block have been demolished, the trees and vegetation removed, and swallowed by a viral parking lot. The only petroleum-free signs of life are a couple of trees on the west corners.
With that much parking, Overton Square should be about the most convenient place in Midtown to shop. And by conventional wisdom, convenient should be attractive to customers. Yet, look at this picture taken around 7 p.m. last Saturday night:
On a nice sunny Saturday evening, the lot is barely a third full. And look at these pictures:
I think at least half of Overton Square is empty. As that parking lot and others in the district have expanded, the vitality of the place has shrunk. Others have noticed the area's decline as well
Need a counter-proof?Cooper-Young
Cooper-Young is practically the twin of Overton Square: they share a common street, architectural style and demographic. But take a look at Cooper Young's parking distribution:
Cooper-Young has no massive parking lots. And the small lots it does have are few. Conventional wisdom says: they need more parking! Yet Cooper-Young is not only well rented with lots of new businesses, it has an energy that Overton Square probably hasn't had in 30 years, when it started demolishing everything it could get its hands on.
C-Y's energy isn't due just to great businesses (which Overton Square also has plenty of) but a visual and physical texture that creates, reinforces and retains the energy, rather than destroying it with long stretches of nothing. It has a texture not overgrown with invasive parking lots.
For Overton Square to get back its energy, it has to demolish those parking lots and start paving them with trees and beautiful buildings.