It’s Friday night, you’re elated. Because it’s your first MLB game of the summer and you have great seats right along the first base line. You get off the exit and follow the signs to the parking structure that conveniently sits beside the stadium. You park your car on the 4th floor and take the elevator down to the main floor. It’s a short walk to the stadium, and you make it in time for the first pitch. Have you ever stopped to realize how parking structures make attending major events so convenient? Probably not. But you have the parking consultants, engineers, and designers from the past and present to thank for their years of innovation for your convenient trip to the ball game.

The history of vehicle parking, of course, starts with the invention of the automobile. But while the Model-T was first produced in 1908, it wasn’t until 1912 (when Detroit Henry Ford’s innovative assembly line made cars widely available in the United States) that the need for vehicle parking was even considered. By the 1920’s, there was a major demand for vehicle parking, and some very creative thinkers were devising ways to meet that demand. Twenty-five years ago Rich & Associates gathered copies of many historical parking related patents that illustrate some of the creativity in parking back then.

Below is a patent from 1932 for a combination tenement and storage building. While it was conceived to be applicable to many uses, this image illustrates a combined parking garage and another occupancy use. 

Although the implementation of a mixed-use parking structure is not a necessarily a new concept, mixed- use garage design is extremely popular today. Many of today’s structures are combined with other uses including commercial, retail, transit functions, athletic fields on roof level, bowling alleys, medical clinics, etc. With the investment and development of autonomous vehicles, the future of the parking industry faces an unknown. Will the innovation of autonomous vehicles result in a decrease in the demand for parking?  Some people predict that the demand for parking will cease to exist. It may, but the timing is difficult to predict. 

With uncertainty about the future of parking looming, the evolution of the parking structure is in next-use programming and design. Rich & Associates’ team of engineers and designers are working on solutions to the unknown future, developing design solutions to accommodate a change in use of the structure in the future to residential or office space. This provides the owner with the resources needed to meet today’s parking demand and the ability to repurpose all or portions of the parking structure to another use should the predicted reduction in parking demand be realized.

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