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Asphalt of Toronto - Our Lost Parking Lots (aka Toronto in the Golden Age of Parking)

can332

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Anyone know what year the covered walkway over Front St between the old north and south St Lawrence Markets was demolished?
 

nfitz

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And the prequel to Germany. There were still bombed out sites in London that I remember seeing in my childhood in the early 1960s.
Are they still there now? I remember my grandfather pointing out vacant lots in London in the mid-1970s that had been bombed out.
 

Urban Shocker

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Gosh, I hope not.

Last fall, at the Victoria College sale, I bought a copy of the Hanslip Fletcher's 1947 book Bombed London - reproductions of pen and ink drawings he'd made in the early 1940s showing Wren churches and other landmarks standing alone amidst the rubble and destruction. My home town, really, where I was born in 1953.
 

condovo

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There's a thread with downtown parking maps of major North American cities on skyscraperpage.com. The wholesale destruction of some/most NA city centres in the last century is absolutely mind-boggling. Houston, for example, was a lovely city pre-WWII. To this day, even Portland is plastered with surface parking. Toronto's in remarkably good shape comparatively, on par with Manhattan. We've come a long way, baby!

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=191539
 
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hawc

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Interesting thread on skyscraperpage. One has to ask however if parking lots are just the symptom, rather than the cause of an unhealthy city.
 

Oliver Tweed

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Actually I think that it's a bit more complicated. In order to have large expanses of parking lots, the city must be wealthy enough to have a large fraction of the population own cars. I doubt that there are a lot of parking lots in Mogadishu. So the chart of wealth versus parking lots would be a bell curve, with the greatest number of parking lots when most of the working population owns cars, but the public transit system is underdeveloped and the land value of the area surrounding the central core is fairly low.

So rising wealth could reduce the quantity of parking-lot area around the central core by a larger and more efficient rapid transit network reducing the number of cars being used, and rising property values making building construction more attractive. Or jobs formerly in the CBD could move elsewhere in the city.

In the case of Toronto, I think that it is a combination of (some) jobs moving out of the core reducing the demand for aboveground parking, and massive residential demand (incorporating underground parking in the buildings) for the same area driving up land prices. I think that any change in rapid transit has been fairly neutral, since unless the DRL gets built, there has been little prospect of any real increase in its capacity to support the downtown core in the last several decades.

This post makes no sense.
 

neubilder

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Actually I think that it's a bit more complicated. In order to have large expanses of parking lots, the city must be wealthy enough to have a large fraction of the population own cars. I doubt that there are a lot of parking lots in Mogadishu. So the chart of wealth versus parking lots would be a bell curve, with the greatest number of parking lots when most of the working population owns cars, but the public transit system is underdeveloped and the land value of the area surrounding the central core is fairly low.

So rising wealth could reduce the quantity of parking-lot area around the central core by a larger and more efficient rapid transit network reducing the number of cars being used, and rising property values making building construction more attractive. Or jobs formerly in the CBD could move elsewhere in the city.

In the case of Toronto, I think that it is a combination of (some) jobs moving out of the core reducing the demand for aboveground parking, and massive residential demand (incorporating underground parking in the buildings) for the same area driving up land prices. I think that any change in rapid transit has been fairly neutral, since unless the DRL gets built, there has been little prospect of any real increase in its capacity to support the downtown core in the last several decades.

Parking lots were a symptom of the decline of cities across N.A. starting in the post-war period as wealthier urban populations fled to the suburbs leaving downtowns to wither and decay. Google: "White flight". Thanks in part to Woody Allen this trend began to reverse in the 60's and 70's.
 
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andrewpmk

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Looks like Mississauga Centre today with all the parking lots around Square One. These will be gone in 20 years.
 

unimaginative2

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Parking lots were a symptom of the decline of cities across N.A. starting in the post-war period as wealthier urban populations fled to the suburbs leaving downtowns to wither and decay. Google: "White flight". Thanks in part to Woody Allen this trend began to reverse in the 60's and 70's.

That's actually not quite accurate. Most of those surface parking lots were built in the 1940s and 1950s when downtowns were outwardly quite healthy. The massive influx of cars into downtowns at that time made it more profitable in many cases to operate a surface parking lot than to maintain aging turn-of-the-century commercial buildings. These surface parking lots were often a symptom of a fairly healthy downtown. A lot of those parking lots in that image were likely used by workers in the new high-rise office buildings developed during the postwar boom.

As for the effects of the reform council, don't forget the blanket height limit across downtown.
 
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W. K. Lis

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Many of the big box stores with their vast parking lots are designed to have a life expectancy of about 20 years. The building can be altered or reconfigured or even torn down for newer buildings. Same with the parking lots. They all can be bulldozed cheaply.
 

W. K. Lis

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Unfortunately, there are developers who still think with a suburban mindset when designing shopping centres, office buildings, or condos for the more inner-city environments. The developers (and politicians) continue to think that any new buildings require vast acreage of parking lots, even though they will only be used on a very rare occasion and there is good public transit or walking available. Accessing those buildings become difficult for transit users or pedestrians. The following article from streetsblog.com is one example:

East River Plaza Parking Still Really, Really Empty, New Research Shows

East River Plaza, the big box mall designed for Massapequa and placed in East Harlem, still has a thousand-space parking garage. And given its location in one of the lowest car-ownership neighborhoods in the country, the garage is still as empty as when it opened, despite big subsidies for parkers.

Thanks to new research from Rutgers urban planning student Kyle Gebhart, whose paper on East River Plaza [PDF] won first prize from the American Planning Association’s Transportation Planning Division, we now know just how badly the project’s developers whiffed when building that massive garage.

EmptyFloor3a.JPG

East River Plaza's 1,100 space garage still looks like this, according to new research by a Rutgers planning student. Less than five percent of spaces on the upper floors of the garage are full, even at peak shopping times. Photo: Noah Kazis

To find out how the garage was being used, Gebhart went down to East River Plaza at two peak shopping times, the early evening of the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the afternoon of the first Saturday in December. On the Tuesday, only 33.6 percent of the 1,103 spaces in the garage were occupied. On Saturday that figure had only crept up lightly, to 38.6 percent.

The top floors of the garage were essentially empty. Between 0.6 and 5.8 percent of the spaces on the upper levels were filled, according to Gebhart’s survey. One section of the third floor of the garage had been fenced off and converted into storage space rather than parking.

In contrast, the developers predicted that the garage would hold a whopping 1,190 cars on an average Saturday afternoon in the environmental impact statement for the project.

How did they get it so wrong? As East River Plaza developer David Blumenfeld explained to Streetsblog after the mall’s opening, he built his calculations around data from suburban big box stores. In the early 1990s, when the project was first conceived, there weren’t any big box stores in more urban settings. “There was no model to go off of,†said Blumenfeld. “There was only the suburban model.â€

Gebhart’s research reveals just how braindead those planning documents were. The environmental impact statement drew its numbers from Home Depots in places like Pelham Bay Park, Glendale, Staten Island, and even Port Chester, where the store is off a highway interchange on the Connecticut border. Rather than assume a Manhattan location would have fewer drivers than those sites, they simply averaged the numbers from those suburban locations together.

EastRiverPlazaArrivals.jpg

Even with a subsidized 1,100 space garage, only a quarter of shoppers at East River Plaza drive (shown in blue). Most walk (shown in green). Image: Kyle Gebhart

“It is odd to somehow presume that a Manhattan Home Depot would generate an average number of trips from these locations,†wrote Gebhart, with a fair bit of understatement.

To estimate the parking needs of the East River Plaza Costco, the EIS looked at a single site in Staten Island, again without any sort of adjustment. “This is therefore measuring the amount of parking in the most car-dependent borough and applying it to the most car-free borough,†Gebhart wrote.

The results, needless to say, weren’t a good fit for Manhattan shoppers. Over half of East River Plaza’s customers live in the three closest ZIP codes, and by and large, they get to the mall on foot. Just under half of all shoppers Gebhart surveyed as they entered the Target on the Tuesday afternoon had walked there. Only 27 percent had driven.

Because the designers of East River Plaza had assumed most shoppers would be entering from the garage, not the street, the pedestrian environment is terrible for those entering on foot. Gebhart found that sidewalks on E. 117th Street had been narrowed near the entrance to the mall to make room for a wider street.

The moral, seemingly intuitive but not grasped at East River Plaza, is that you can’t treat Manhattan like it’s the suburbs. “If big box stores would like to locate in urban environments, it is important that they do not bring all of the elements of suburban sprawl with them,†concluded Gebhart. “Otherwise, by continually increasing the supply of parking and creating dead spaces, the city will only become ore auto-dependent and sprawled as well.â€
 

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