It has long been a requirement that new residential construction come with a set number of spaces based on the amount of units that will be built. But in recent years, some developers have successfully petitioned to build new living spaces that can come with fewer than the required number of spaces. On a few rare occasions, some developers even have been allowed to do away with providing parking spaces completely. The cases where this has been approved are always in areas with multiple public transportation options and grocery stores that are within very close walking distance.
For those residents who still need a place to park, there are some new technological solutions that are changing the game. The District already has a few vertical lifts, or what is more commonly referred to as “parking elevators.” Drivers ease their car onto a movable platform or “lift” on the ground floor, and the platform then rises up and out of the way until the car is needed again (each platform usually has space for several cars so that the unit is as space-efficient as possible). This innovation has been common in European cities for some time but is only just now starting to take on more of a presence in heavily populated urban areas such as Washington.
In multi-family developments, another option we’re beginning to see more of is valet service. Newer developments have in-unit iPads that enable residents to request that their car be retrieved from an underground or nearby garage. This saves the building’s management from having a dedicated employee assigned to staffing the desk (reducing overhead) and appeals to residents since they don’t run the risk of being put on hold while they wait to put in their request.
While some developers are focusing on how to fit in as many parking spaces as possible, others are increasingly turning to providing benefits that reduce the need for residents to own vehicles in the first place. Grocery and dry cleaning delivery almost come standard these days, but some buildings now provide on-site space for car or bike sharing services in exchange for free or discounted memberships for their residents. Plus, more newly constructed buildings are being designed so that there is a designated entrance for bike riders so they can clean their bikes before taking them into their living spaces. Often these “bike rooms” have basic repair equipment on hand such as air pumps, tools, and racks to hold the bike while it is being worked on, to make it easier to own a bike in the city.
The proliferation of app-based transportation services, such as Uber and Lyft, also ease the parking burden in the District. Real estate agents are starting to highlight how affordable the ride is from a home to main destinations in the city based on the going rate for one of these services.
While there will always be a need for some District residents to own a car and use it daily, we are also starting to sense a shift among home buyers as they realize there are more options for getting around than having to own a car. Major auto manufacturers are already planning for the day when cars are no longer sold and owned, but rather used as a private form of public transportation. Developers and building managers have picked up on this trend and are starting to provide easier access to the growing alternatives to car ownership. As transportation options like these become more integrated into city living, we are sure we’ll see more residents forgo the option of owning vehicles in the future.
David Charron, president and chief executive of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS, writes an occasional column about the Washington-area real estate market.