The fate of parking facilities and parking lots has been changing slowly over the last decade or so, but with the coming of the coronavirus, change is happening much more quickly than expected. Many employees have been-and will continue to be- working from home. SpotHero did a study on how this has affected parking lots, and they found that demand for parking has gone down 90% since the middle of March. This problem definitely isn’t anything new; parking lots have been progressively underused and some even went completely abandoned. Parking affects more than you’d think about daily life in the city. It contributes towards the quality of the city commute, how much free green space we have, and even how much rent costs.
Because so many parking lots are sitting unused- and may never return to their full capacity- savvy entrepreneurs are taking advantage of these slabs of concrete in new and, in some cases, innovative ways. The parking industry is worth an estimated $10.6 billion, which is nothing to turn your nose up at.
One of the biggest and least-thought-about advantages that parking lots have is that no one really thinks about them much. People don’t really think about them beyond “I need to find parking for work” or “I need a parking space at the store”. For paid parking; no one really goes around comparison shopping for parking spaces. If the spot is convenient for what the person wants to do then they are going to park there. End of story. It’s all about convenience.
Investors like parking lots and garages because there’s almost no maintenance needed. At most, owners need to maybe fill in and smooth over cracks in the road once or twice a year; assuming no disaster happens.
Real estate developers often go nuts for parking lots because there is almost no demolition needed before something new can be built in that space. There are also little to no surprises to be had and very little maintenance overhead after.
With all that in mind, it looks likely that many parking lots are looking at significant reductions or abandonment and repurposing in the aftermath of Covid-19 if things don’t return to normal sometime in the near future. But at this point, returning to normal doesn’t seem likely.