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Architectural rendering of The MOD in Los Angeles showing how a parking structure could be redeveloped for workspace, retail and housing with pre-fabricated modules. Photo: Gensler

Parking garages are staples of car-clogged cities — but they are ugly and take up prime urban real estate. So building owners and developers are looking for new uses for that space.

The big picture: As urban transportation begins to shift, the massive concrete parking structures that sit under or beside most downtown buildings are being repurposed into food delivery kitchens, e-commerce distribution centers, flood protection and even urban farming.

The biggest hurdle is the lack of awareness that that parking garages can be redeveloped to serve people, not just cars, says Diane Hoskins, co-CEO of Gensler, an architecture and design firm.

"An obvious and functional challenge we face is that these structures were not originally designed for human habitation. These spaces often require us to raise the floor height, level the floors between ramps and incorporate design techniques that bring natural light into the space."
— Diane Hoskins, Gensler co-CEO

Changing old zoning codes, which require a lot of parking, could allow developers to put the money for parking decks or garages (upwards of $15,ooo per space) toward affordable housing or other uses, writes Angelo Carusi of Cooper Carry, an architecture and design firm.

What's happening: Parking garages are morphing into more colorful, productive, resilient and surprising uses.

  • In Chicago, a parking garage under Millennium Park is being converted into an e-commerce delivery logistics center.
  • Underground parking garages in L.A. and other cities are turning into shared commercial kitchens for on-demand, delivery-only food services.
  • The roofs of parking garages are being used as urban greenhouses and farms in Denver and Seattle. And in Paris, an abandoned garage was converted into a growing space for mushrooms and roots that don't need sunlight.
  • Near the World Trade Center site in New York, a parking garage known as the Vehicle Security Center now plays a key role in protecting the area's transportation and communication infrastructure from storm surge. (It also has a living wall of plants and its roof doubles as an elevated park.)

A neglected garage in Wichita was turned into 44 high-end apartment units, but other efforts to turn old parking garages into affordable housing haven't gotten far.

  • San Francisco's plan to redevelop a 732-space garage into a mixed-use complex with 100 affordable housing units was nixed after opposition.
  • L.A. worked with Gensler to redevelop a parking garage as supportive housing with pre-fabricated modules, but it hasn't moved past concept stage.

When parking structures can't support residential or office loads, they can be turned into parking spaces for autonomous vehicles and charging stations for electric vehicles.

Go deeper: The companies trying to re-imagine parking spots

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Twitter sues Texas AG Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Twitter on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), saying that his office launched an investigation into the social media giant because it banned former President Trump from its platform.

Driving the news: Twitter is seeking to halt an investigation launched by Paxton into moderation practices by Big Tech firms including Twitter for what he called "the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President," days after they banned him following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.