For every vehicle, there’s an estimated eight parking spots available taking up about one-third of space in U.S. cities. That’s means there are wonderful opportunities to make something useful and creative with that unused space for the community. If your city is wondering how to best repurpose unused parking lots and spaces, we offer five creative ideas.
1. Urban gardens
Unused parking spaces provide the perfect place for an urban garden or green space. Urban farming is growing in popularity, increasing by over 30% in 30 years. Work with neighborhood leaders and citizens to create an urban garden where people can plant flowers, herbs and vegetables. Encourage participation by mailing an informational packet, along with a practical giveaway—like a Garden Walk Calendar—to everyone in the community. Post the plans on social media and encourage people to engage by entering those who do into a prize drawing for a Garden Tool Set or a Bucket Hat.
2. Community hang-out spots
One creative idea for using parking lots that everyone can appreciate is using them to support local, mobile businesses like food trucks and pop-ups. Community members can grab food and relax in the outdoors on their lunch break, or shop local pop-up stores for jewelry and other items. Farmers markets are another great use of space. Farmers market coordinators can work with lot owners on things like land use, costs, and days the lot can be used.
3. Citizen parking
Turn unused office parking into parking for the community. With 45% of people working remotely and nine in 10 hoping to stay remotely working, parking garages are much emptier. Cities can work with lot owners to provide parking, normally reserved for office workers, to citizens. Whether people are running errands, meeting up with friends, or shopping downtown, they can repurpose unused parking space and stimulate the local economy at the same time.
4. Refreshing parks
Unused parking lots are usually flat and empty—the perfect combination for a city park. Green space is highly valued in an urban setting, and a beautiful park can provide a refreshing space for citizens. It could even help raise property values. When creating a new city park, especially if there are others nearby, provide an incentive for community members to visit. Offer a practical giveaway, such as a picnic blanket or cooler, for the first 100 visitors on opening day.
5. Pop-up parklets
If your city doesn’t have an entire unused parking lot, look at unused parking spaces. “There are 500 million parking spaces in the United States and 325 million people,” says Andy Cohen, co-CEO of Gensler architecture firm. Those unused parking spaces can be transformed into parklets (small urban spaces—often an unused parking space—spruced up with greenery or seating areas). It can even be transformed into a small café. Parklets are becoming quite popular in other countries—Helsinki has 132 active parklet permits.
Repurpose unused spaces
With these creative ideas for parking lots—from community hang-out spots to pop-ups and parklets—your city can make great use of unused parking lots.