How to appropriately accommodate parking in a mixed-use development

First of all, I do realize that a title such as “How to appropriately accommodate parking in a mixed-use development” will turn a lot of people off of this blog. I’ll admit – it’s not exactly a sexy topic.

That being said, I never fully appreciate the great work done at Excelsior and Grand until I visit other mixed-use infill developments around the metro. Why? The reason are:

a) I go there on a somewhat regular basis for groceries, hence trips have turned into a chore (as opposed to an “urban expedition”), and

b) Because I’ve been there so often, in my mind, the has has ceased being a “development” and has become part of the community.

Coming off a my time at the “West End”, the aspect of Excelsior and Grand I recently re-noticed was parking. Or, more appropriately – how the two infill projects chose to deal with it.

The Excelsior & Grand Model

Public parking is broken into two smaller-scale ramps (2.5 to 3 levels) that attempt to architecturally blend with the adjacent land uses; and on-street angle and parallel parking.

Parking is clearly labeled and doesn’t look unpleasant. Furthermore, Excelsior & Grand compliments garage parking with on-street angle and parallel parking. These complimenting methods seem to work pretty well.

Trader Joe’s has its own surface area parking lot, but it’s small enough to not make much of a negative impact. The lot is usually busy (and oftentimes requires an orange-vested employee to direct traffic).

The West End Model:

The West End has a few options for parking. There are two large concrete parking structures (neither of which are ascetically pleasing). The 4 lane road leading to the garage entrances has signs posted discouraging curbside parking (despite the fact the road is 4 lanes wide and rarely used).

The entrance behind the movie theater (see photo) is my favorite example of what not to do. Nonetheless, the West End does offers heated underground parking (which is admittedly nice during a Minnesota Winter).

I didn’t feel entirely comfortable driving down the ramp. It felt unwelcoming for some reason, but I can’t put my finger on why.

There are spaces for on-street parking -they come in the form of nicely decorated, non-metered curb-cuts that generally fit two to three cars. There are two problems though. There is a 15 minute limit which might allot you enough time to quickly run into Creative Kidstuff, but that is about it. And, there are only about 7 curb cuts that can hold up to approximately 25 to 30 cars (max).

The on-street parking at the West End gives me the impression that it was designed more for appearance than functionality.




3 comments

  1. Thanks for these write-ups on West End. It is pretty amazing that two mixed-use developments in the same suburb would have such widely varying quality. It’s tempting to blame the developer, especially when you have such a flaky company as Duke (Indiana not being known for progressive city planning) – but I don’t know that TOLD is any better.

    Instead I think the problem is with St Louis Park – they had a vision for Excelsior & Grand that was articulated years before ground was broken. Meanwhile they seem to have a hands-off attitude towards the Park Place area, not having any sort of plan or vision document for the area that I can find. When combined with a suburban-style zoning code, it leaves a developer free to develop a mixed-use neighborhood where none of the buildings actually mix uses.

    The developer seems to be averse to dense housing, which tends to be necessary for this sort of development to work – although the job concentration in this area will help. As far as I know they’re still planning to build the apartments (http://www.stlouispark.org/development-projects/west-end-apartments-development-summary.html) that replaced the hotel that was in the approved PUD, but again this is a single-use building.

    It seems like St Louis Park needs to add some elements of its Mixed Use district into its Office District, or we may see more of this sort of half-ass development.

  2. If SLP had an idea for Excelsior & Grand then it is conceived entirely differently than West End, which came from a developer — not the city. Housing isn’t really needed for the West End, there is plenty of residential in the area.

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