Lots to hate

TulsaNow says the Oil Capital has enough asphalt, and has a map to prove it: for instance, Cincinnati between 10th and 13th is an almost-uninterrupted stretch of parking lots.

From the CORE proposals [link to PDF file]:

Surface parking lots have proliferated in Downtown Tulsa, eroding the urban fabric, livability, walkability, and property tax revenues, as many buildings have been demolished for surface parking. In addition, the abundance of lower-cost surface parking makes the preferred structured parking solution less viable. Despite this, the perception that “there’s nowhere to park downtown” persists.

We hear the same noises in Oklahoma City, particularly regarding Bricktown. I have never had any trouble finding a place to park downtown, even during big events like the Festival of the Arts, which draws something like 100,000 people a day, but no one believes me. More to the point, downtown activities continue to draw crowds, which should tell you that parking isn’t that much of an issue at all.

A view from Indianapolis by Aaron Renn:

[P]arking at Broad Ripple and the Fashion Mall is a piece of cake compared to finding a parking spot in places like San Francisco, Chicago, or New York. In those places, there aren’t even any illegal spots available. All the fire hydrants are taken. But people are willing to drive from 50 miles out in the suburbs to dine out in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. People from Indianapolis and beyond travel to Chicago to shop Michigan Ave., dine out in Lincoln Park, or take in a touring Broadway show in the Loop, where $15 charges for parking are commonplace and on street parking is a near impossibility. New York is of course the nation’s premier tourist mecca and no one even thinks about trying to park there.

The truth is, parking has virtually nothing to do with whether or not people come downtown or not. It is simply an easy scapegoat for people to whine about when answering surveys. The fact is, people who don’t come downtown stay away because there is nothing there they want. Provide these people with real attractions and they will come, regardless of parking. The Circle Centre Mall and its associated upscale restaurants provide the best example of this.

It’s as simple as this, says Renn:

In reality, a parking lot is a vacant lot. And a vacant lot offers no attractions that tourists or suburbanites will come to see. It offers no office space for people to work in. It offers no place for downtown residents to live.

To get people into the city center, for a few hours or for the rest of their lives, you’ve got to give them something they want. Oklahoma City, after years of downtown desuetude, finally has a handle on the idea that they have to offer an experience that can’t be had in Edmond or Yukon or Moore. And an irreplaceable part of that experience is the connection to history that exists only in those classic buildings with their inimitable architecture. (Edmond is busily sprucing up its old downtown, precisely for this reason.)

Michael Bates has a seven-minute video put together by TulsaNow to illustrate their point. But Joni Mitchell saw this coming decades ago: before the pink hotel, the boutique, or the swinging hot spot, they put up a parking lot. Then, as now, we don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone.

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