Parking requirements, rail and market forces


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Othello Light Rail Station

I was reading through my stockpile of Daily Journals of Commerce yesterday (similar, yet different from the stack of New Yorkers at home) and came across a good article on how city regulations, transit-oriented development, and market forces are shaping new development around the Othello station in Southeast Seattle.

The building, now under construction and named the Station at Othello Park, will have 351 market-rate apartments and 20,000 square feet of retail space at street level. Because the site sits across the street from the light rail station city codes don’t require any parking spaces.

So, how much parking will it have? 330 spots. The builder estimates each spot costs $30,000 to build as part of the project. The total amount of parking included will total $9.9 million or 14 percent of the total project cost.

This is interesting for a number of reasons. Why so much parking across from a light rail station? If we’re to see low parking-to-unit ratios anywhere you’d think it would be spitting distance from the train. The developers say the ratio is low (.78 stalls per unit when you hold aside stalls for retail space) and that banks reject going lower. Living without your car in Seattle is still too untested to be attractive to construction lenders. The inclusion of parking still figures strongly in the resale value for units, too.

One of the reasons I supported doing away with city regulations on parking minimums in station areas was the idea that developers of new housing might produce units with less parking, save the $30,000 per space and reflect that savings in unit rent or price. Some people in the surrounding neighborhoods fear new residents will bring their cars along anyway when they move into station areas and that if new buildings appear sans parking spaces, the new residents will simply clog up streets a block or two away.

It looks like it will be a while before we really test that out.

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