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Real EstateThought Leadership

Why Is REEF Repurposing Parking Lots?

Thursday, Mar 04, 2021 - 3 mins

Many of us live in cities that were built for cars—and lots of cars means lots of parking. One MIT professor thinks there could be as many as 800 million parking spaces in the United States. Laid out next to one another, that’s enough to cover over 4,000 square miles—or around 1,936,000 football fields.

But what if our neighborhood parking lots were more than just lots?

We’re transforming parking real estate across North America and Europe into neighborhood hubs: mixed-use spaces providing the products and services people need, right where they live.

Here’s why we see parking lots as the key to a more livable future.

Our Parking Needs Are Changing

As part of the push to reduce car usage, cities around the world are looking for sustainable ways to transform urban spaces. One focus is on creating 15-minute neighborhoods, where people can easily access their daily needs within a short walk from home.

The transit and pedestrian infrastructure investments needed to create these neighborhoods have already begun in many cities, including Portland, Boulder, and Detroit. In New York City, former HUD Secretary and mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan has even made extending and expanding the city’s Open Streets initiative—which closes streets to cars in favor of pedestrians and cyclists—a key part of his platform.

As urban initiatives like these begin to reduce the number of car trips we take, many parking lot owners, asset managers, and developers have begun to look for different ways to use their real estate. Luckily, parking real estate is simple to repurpose.

With just a few adjustments, parking lots can become the new heart of the neighborhood.

Parking Lots Are Made To Be Repurposed

Whether they’re surface lots or multi-level structures, parking lots are blank canvases, with qualities that make them ideal for uses that extend well beyond parking cars.

  • Proximity: Parking lots are, by necessity, located close to where people live, work, and play. This proximity to our day-to-day lives makes them a convenient place for accessing the goods and services we need.

  • Safety: Parking lots are one of the few places designed and developed to let pedestrians and vehicles interact safely. This makes them ideal for other uses that require person-vehicle interaction—like charging stations for electric vehicles, docking stations for e-scooters and bikeshare bikes, and staging areas for deliveries.

  • Maneuverability: Parking lots are built to handle heavy loads and have ample space to steer vehicles and equipment. This means modular applications like NBRHD Kitchens, vertical farms, and even micro-clinics can be quickly set up and swapped when needed.

And just like that, parking lots become ideal for creating neighborhood hubs: places that make essentials—like food, energy, and healthcare—more accessible.

Repurposed Parking Lots Can Still Be a Place to Park

Because many of us drive to do our shopping, commute to work, and take our kids to school, we still need places to park. But does parking require so much dedicated space?

Research suggests there may be as many as three non-residential parking spaces for every car in the United States. It’s even been estimated that parking lots in cities like Los Angeles cover as much as one-third of its total urban real estate. That’s a lot of lots.

Our neighborhood hubs aren’t replacing parking—they’re making it better. If people living in the neighborhood need parking, they’ll be able to do so—but they’ll also gain access to businesses and services that make their neighborhood more livable.

Bringing Neighborhood Hubs to Life

Neighborhood hubs should be as unique as the communities they’re found in, so we look for ways to fill existing gaps with the products and services communities need.

Do residents need better access to primary care? We can work with one of our healthcare partners to set up a local micro-clinic. Is it hard to find affordable sources for fresh food? We can set up a vertical urban farm that grows fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Do small businesses need better ways to get their goods to customers? We can set up a last-mile delivery center to help them make quicker (and greener) deliveries.

Parking lots can provide fresh food to the surrounding community by housing a vertical farm.

And because we take care of all the details, there’s no added work (or costs) for parking lot owners.

When we think about parking, we see more than cars—we see potential. Do you? Find out which use cases you could bring to your property using our landlord calculator.


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