Apr 13, 2023 - News

Downtown San Antonio is 26% parking, more than other cities

A map shows locations in red that are dedicated to parking in downtown San Antonio. Parking is about 26% of downtown.

Areas of downtown San Antonio covered in parking lots or garages are shown in red. Map: Parking Reform Network

Parking downtown might not always be fun, but it shouldn't be too hard to find.

Driving the news: More than a quarter of downtown San Antonio — 26% — is dedicated to parking lots and garages, more than most major metros in the U.S., according to the Parking Reform Network.

Why it matters: Local leaders have spent more than a decade working to transform downtown into a neighborhood that is more urban and walkable. But too much surface area devoted to parking can stand in the way of that vision, Matt Brown, president of Centro San Antonio, tells Axios.

What they're saying: "A lot of that property would be a higher, better use if it had housing on it, mixed-use retail, entertainment, other kinds of amenities," Brown says. "And sometimes keeping the parking as well."

Yes, but: Convincing people in car-centric Texas that downtown needs less parking isn't popular with everyone.

  • Some San Antonians believe there's not enough parking downtown or that it's too expensive to park downtown.
  • But Brown isn't convinced that's the case, especially as more people work from home.

By the numbers: There were 52 parking facilities in San Antonio with 14,224 spots in 2021, per a study from Parking Advisors.

Zoom in: Before Weston Urban began construction last year on a 32-story apartment building downtown dubbed 300 Main, the area was a parking lot. Now the space will have apartments and retail in addition to a parking garage.

  • "In two years' time, a hot, soulless asphalt parking lot — and I bet there's not a person here that can remember when it was anything else — will transform," Weston Urban co-founder Randy Smith said at a groundbreaking ceremony at the time, per the Express-News.

Zoom out: Arlington, near Dallas, has the highest percentage of downtown parking (42%), while San Francisco and Chicago were among cities with the lowest (4%), per the Parking Reform Network, a nonprofit that advocates changes to parking policy.

  • On average, about 20% of land in city centers analyzed by the Parking Reform Network is dedicated solely to parking.

Flashback: In 2021, a global concept that turned parking spots into art projects launched in downtown San Antonio, per MySA.com. The idea focused on using space for people instead of cars.

Between the lines: Minimum parking rules, which require developers to build a certain number of parking spaces based on the size or occupancy of a building, aren't required in downtown San Antonio, per the network.

Of note: The network's San Antonio map covers the central city from the northern edge near the San Antonio Museum of Art to include Hemisfair at the southern edge. It does not include Southtown.

  • The map also doesn't include underground parking or parking incorporated in a building with other uses, such as retail, office or residential.

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