Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Elimination of Downtown, OTR parking minimums being studied

By October, a report on eliminating parking minimums for developers Downtown and in Over-the-Rhine should be presented for consideration by Cincinnati City Council.

The report from Department of City Planning and Buildings Director Charles C. Graves III is in response to an April motion submitted by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and signed by councilmembers Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young asking the City solicitor to have an ordinance prepared to do so within 30 days.

According to Graves, meetings with resident and business stakeholders have led to some concerns. A four-month study is needed to address those complex issues, he said.

"The study will take several months and will require a public zoning staff conference and a hearing before the City Planning Commission," Graves said in his report. "A recommendation will then be forwarded to City Council."

Qualls explained the reason for her motion in an accompanying statement.

"High density, a walkable pedestrian friendly mixed use environment, and a strong sense of character and place are hallmarks of a healthy downtown," she said. "Downtowns and their adjacent urban neighborhoods present a special mix of land uses, place-making amenities and densities not found elsewhere, and therefore require a special approach to the provision of parking.

Because the available land for parking in dense urban centers is often scarce – and therefore costly – providing the required parking often drives up development costs and can have the unintended side effect of leading to the demolition of historic buildings.

On average, a surface parking space can cost $5,000 per space; Parking garages are often $25,000 per space or more.

"The cost is passed on to consumer, making urban living or starting a small business more expensive," Qualls said. "Parking requirements are a major obstacle to the redevelopment of the urban core, the reutilization of existing buildings, and the conversion of buildings to residential, commercial and retail uses.

Downtown Development Districts require one space for each residential unit and one space for each 750 to 1,200 square feet of office space, depending on which of four parking subdistricts in which a development falls.

In Over-the-Rhine, much of the neighborhood is zoned RM-1.2 Residential Multi-Family District, requiring 1.5 parking spaces per residential unit.