Local News

Call for Rules to Disguise Downtown Parking Decks

Posted April 9, 2008 4:27 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2008 10:57 p.m. EDT

— Parking garages are downtown eyesores that need to be addressed as the area grows, according to a recent report by the city's Appearance Commission.

"When you just allow the parking decks to start at the ground and go five to six stories up, you really do create a void in your city's fabric," commission member Ted Van Dyke said.

The report was part of a process to adopt interim rules to guide downtown development until the city can put together and implement a comprehensive plan next year. A public hearing on the interim guidelines is scheduled for next Tuesday.

"Our concern was that downtown was developing so rapidly that there were important policies we had to put in place," Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said.

The proposal calls for better design of parking garages to screen them from public view, suggesting building underground parking or wrapping above-ground decks with retail shops or offices to disguise them. Entrances and exits to the garages should be limited in number and placed on side streets, the proposal said.

"We are trying to make sure these large projects really contribute to the quality of the city," Van Dyke said.

Silver said the changes would make downtown streets more pedestrian-friendly.

"It's a policy that we would encourage parking to go underground, buildings around the parking deck and ... more activity such as retail," he said.

Developer Andrew Stewart said big changes could mean costly upgrades.

"The danger is, we have a lot of momentum going downtown," said Stewart, president of Empire Properties. "To the extent that we're going to put in regulations that trump economics of a project, that's when we get into danger for downtown. That would be my concern."

Other concerns pointed out in the report include the need for more street-level retail and more attractive sidewalks and landscaping.

Silver said the interim rules could be in place by late May or early June.