The Influence of Parking Trends and Innovations on Commercial Real Estate

Presented at CREW-Miami’s Luncheon Meeting on June 29, 2017

Moderator: James Fried, President, Sandstone Realty Advisers; Andrew Ginsburg, President, East Region, CityLyft Parking; Fredrick W. Bredemeyer II, President, Park One of Florida; Alejandra (Alex) Argudin, COO, Miami Parking Authority; John Osbourne, VP of Asset Management, Crocker Partners

In Miami, as in urban areas everywhere, parking and traffic present serious challenges. Parking is too often an afterthought that’s discussed only when it becomes a problem. Panelists outlined pro-active approaches and new technologies that address today’s parking issues.

John Osbourne, asset manager with commercial investment firm Crocker Partners, said a positive change is that fewer office tenants insist on parking in the same buildings they occupy. “Urban workers are OK with parking in another building, although in suburban markets, surface parking is still important.” When evaluating potential acquisitions, his firm may decide to re-design the parking and sometimes proposes solutions that also benefit adjoining properties. He cited a situation where a residential building was set to rise on a small parcel next to a Crocker-owned office building in Tampa. Noticing that the residential site could not accommodate needed parking, Crocker worked out a perpetual easement with the apartment building’s developer to use some of the office building’s parking.

Asked how brokers should handle tenants’ requests for assigned parking spaces with their names on them, panelists suggested that brokers state early in the leasing process that no assigned parking is available. Reserved parking space is extremely inefficient from a revenue standpoint, and asset owners might consider offering VIP valet service instead.

Fred Bredemeyer’s company, Park One, is one of Miami’s largest parking systems, providing parking and valet services for hotels, high rise residential, retail, and office projects. He works with developers and parking engineers to plan parking–an element he admits is never the highest and best use of real estate. He emphasized the need to focus on guests’ arrival and departure experiences at properties of all kinds, including the addition of pick-up and drop-off areas for Uber and Lyft users. “This new form of congestion is caused by building codes that no longer match traffic and parking needs. Uber helps with parking but not with traffic,” he said. “Technologies take time to rollout, and meanwhile millions more cars are sold every year. We can advocate for public transportation, but we must also urge municipalities to change their building codes to catch up to trends like ridesharing.”

Alex Argudin outlined techniques the Miami Parking Authority is using to address parking and traffic. Miami’s successful use of PayByPhone, an online service that ties vehicles’ license numbers to on-street paid parking, has become a model for other cities. The newest technology under consideration is parking sensors that track which spaces are being used and whether a space has been paid for. A vendor was recently approved to conduct a one-year pilot program to test the sensor technology at no cost to the Miami Parking Authority. Coconut Grove was chosen for the test because its users span all types—office, residents, and tourists. “Parking is a necessary evil, and we want spaces to turn over, but have had no way to reliably monitor them. Sensors will let us do this,” she said, noting that pricing is less of an issue than ease of use. The city is also exploring demand pricing (raising and lowering rates to reflect demand) to push people from paid on-street spaces into garages.

The department is in talks with Freebee, a free online car service in use in Coral Gables, whose drivers ferry passengers from garages or other locations to their destinations in the urban center. Designed to encourage parking on the fringes by eliminating long walks in heat or rain, Freebee can also reduce drivers’ habit of endlessly circling the block in search of on-street spaces.

Andrew Ginsburg of CityLift Parking uses automated solutions to park the maximum number of cars in the least amount of space. “Why build 2,000 spaces when later you may need only 1000? Our automated rack and rail systems condense the square footage needed for each car. Europe and Asia have been using similar old-but-proven solutions for 30 to 40 years, but the US is behind. When the need for car parking declines, we can unbolt the steel elements and use the freed-up cubic space for housing.” He said that creating more parking spaces is not a silver bullet because it simply invites more drivers. Miami’s lack of public transportation is the real challenge, with parking as a needed tool to alleviate congestion.

“Parking improvements have to be part of the entire built environment,” he said, adding that the parking industry has automated gates and cash collection, but has to be even more efficient. “Parking is the least sexy component of a development. How do we do it in a way that builds a better city, that makes parking more user-friendly? We’re 15 years away from all-automated parking, and automation will never take all cars off the roads. The challenge is to find out whether young people are going to drive cars or not.”   

—Susan Cumins, CREW-Miami member since 1998