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.