New Office Programs Help Mitigate Parking Issues

Carrie Rossenfeld Office

The desire to reduce parking in office buildings and increase projects near public transit has created a new “problem”: how will workers get from the train station to the office? But, some pro-active office owners are helping to solve this last-mile commuting problem with programs like ride-sharing services and valet-style drop-off/pick-up zones, according to a release from a representative of CBRE.

The release says that a new report by the firm suggests that while many occupiers are moving to denser employee configurations, parking ratios have declined overall since 1990 due to better use of public transit. “In fact, parking ratios for new buildings have decreased since 2000 in the 15 largest U.S. and Canadian office markets with the exception of Orange County, which has minimal public-transit usage compared to the other markets studied.”

However, the report says, some parking trends that could be growing in Orange County and other parts of California and the Northwest can help mitigate this problem. “Many owners and developers are creating pick-up and drop-off areas in parking structures or adjacent locations to accommodate employees and visitors arriving via shared-ride services such as Uber and Lyft,” according to the statement.

Trammell Crow Company’s The Boardwalk in Irvine, California, for example, features central plazas for ride-share drop-offs and pick-ups, the statement says. The capacity of these zones typically ranges from five to 15 vehicles.

Another program in play is ride-sharing credits, which The Irvine Company is offering as a pilot program through a partnership with a ride-sharing provider, according to the statement. The program offers tenants ride-sharing credits between several local rail stations and the Santa Clara Square mixed-use development in Silicon Valley.

Convertible parking structures is another option, the statement says, but it may be better suited for owner/developers planning to hold onto their properties for at least a decade. These structures are easily convertible to other uses; however, they do require higher floor-to-floor heights (between 12 feet and 14 feet for office-space conversion) “and other specific design elements that typically make them more expensive to build than traditional parking structures,” the release says. “CBRE’s analysis found that the total cost of a convertible structure in Houston is 17 percent higher than that of a traditional structure, or $11 more per gross square feet.” Such owners may want to keep their properties longer in order to amortize the cost and increase ROI.

Andrea Cross, Americas head of office research for CBRE, is quoted in the statement as saying, “Investors with hold periods of 10 years or fewer are generally not willing to pay a premium for office properties with convertible parking garages, due to the increased cost and uncertainty around the future of autonomous vehicles.”

According to the statement, adaptive reuse is another choice, “One potential solution for meeting current tenant demand for parking but providing future options is to build the parking structure half above grade and half below, enabling the owner to demolish the upper portion and build an alternate use over the subterranean parking, as Trammell Crow Company did with its 929 Office Tower in Bellevue, Washington.”