Picking up the pace: Desire for urban living means more parking garages, walkability

May 19, 2015


By: Kirby Lee Davis The Journal Record   May 14, 2015

JENKS – Duane Phillips places almost as much importance on Village on Main’s new 550-space parking garage as he does on the 300,000-plus-square-foot development’s bank tower, clinic and other elements.

He’s also considering building a similar garage in midtown Tulsa’s Cherry Street district.

“We’re trying to create that very dense living environment that draws people,” said Phillips, the developer of Village on Main and other Tulsa-area projects. “People are moving toward that dense ease of living.”

Such trends may soon make parking garages much more common outside of central business districts. Analysts provided a number of different reasons, some philosophical, some practical.

Mark Snead, founder and chief economist for Oklahoma City-based RegionTrack, said many of the smaller communities he consults with are trying to grow office markets to broaden their economic base. That often spurs efforts to create walkable commercial and residential neighborhoods sought by younger employees.

This aligns with urbanist styles that push homes and storefronts closer to the curb, said Ed Sharrer, a former Tulsa city planner who now directs the Kendall Whittier Main Street program. Many cities are considering zoning changes to foster pedestrian environments and boost walking habits.

Such trends often encourage greater distances between parking and commercial or residential areas, restricting available spaces along streets to position vehicles at the back of properties. But that may not sit well with some businesses, said Jared Andresen, managing director of Newmark Grubb Levy Strange Beffort’s Tulsa office.

“One of the problems with Cherry Street and the national tenants is that they require more than code parking,” said Phillips, whose Oak Properties LLC is about to start construction on the 22,000-square-foot 1551 Cherry Street retail and office building. “Code requires one space for each 100 square feet of restaurant. National tenants want one space for every 50 or even 25 square feet.”

That’s one reason why Phillips is considering building a parking garage on lots he owns behind a few Cherry Street retailers. It’s also one reason why he wanted one in Village on Main.

“A problem for Jenks, and a positive for Jenks, is that there’s not a lot of land in Jenks,” he said. “In order to capitalize on the low amount of dirt, you have to go for density. In order to park there, you have to build parking garages.”

Such strategies come with greater costs. Adding a lighted asphalt parking lot may run $2,000 or more per space, Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp. President and Chief Executive Wes Smithwick said. But building a parking garage can cost five times that, or more.

That’s one reason why a garage is not under discussion for downtown Broken Arrow’s surging Rose District. He said that area still has adequate room for growth, with many customers willing to walk half a block or more to where they’re going.

“We’re going to invest our money for more improvements, to enhance what we have there, to make it even more attractive than what we have today,” Smithwick said.

But other factors support garages. Despite their increased traffic load, Sharrer said such structures often prove better for the environment than parking lots, which spread asphalt over a greater amount of land.

An attached parking garage also goes a long way to establishing Class A property status, said Patrick Coates, manager of Coates Commercial Properties.

That benefits First Oklahoma Bank, which owns the six-story, 58,752-square-foot office building connected to the Village on Main garage. It also benefits Phillips, who expects to start construction later this year on an 80,000-square-foot mixed-use building connected to the other side of that garage.

Jenks Mayor Kelly Dunkerley said the garage, to be owned by the city, would help serve neighboring businesses and the many city festivals held downtown or on open grounds between Village on Main and the Oklahoma Aquarium.

That echoed one attraction First Oklahoma Chairman and Co-CEO Tom Bennett Jr. saw in the garage. He compared it to his bank’s community role.

“Not only do we want to have a bank that’s successful, we want to help build a community that’s successful,” he said. “Our interests are completely intertwined with the success of this community.”

Andresen questioned whether many suburban markets needed a garage at this point. But he also saw the benefits Phillips envisioned.

“It’s really got some awesome things that can be built around it, with that parking garage out there,” he said. “That Village on Main can really take off.”