It’s Time to Invest in Parking Garages

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Reddit0Share on LinkedIn0Print this pageEmail this to someone

It’s time for St. Louis to invest in parking garages. What’s that? You think we already have enough parking garages? You’re right, but this investment isn’t about building new garages, it’s about making current garages a little less jarring in our daily urban experience. The vast majority of St. Louis parking garages are ugly. A large number are horrific. A few are soul crushing behemoths. This need not be the case.

I recently wrote an article titled “Our Tolerance for Crap Must Be Zero” that advocated for higher architectural standards in St. Louis. The same should be true for parking garages. As bad as some may be, they are much easier to retrofit, dress up or alter than other structures. Attractive garages do exist: art, simple color, lights and plants can drastically and successfully transform these eyesores.

The cost of improvement would be rather small. What could an artist present on the Kiener parking garages with $1M? What would it cost to put a white screen on a garage and project Cardinals away games? There are more simple transformations as well. Extending even false storefronts to the second and third floors would greatly improve many garages. Including retail where none currently exists would do likewise. What could be accomplished with a couple hundred gallons of paint?

Kiener Plaza and garages
{Kiener Plaza and garages}

Such an effort could be funding by a small parking tax. It should be funding by our city’s parking division. Local philanthropic leaders could accomplish this. We are a generous city. Admittedly, sexing up parking garages may not have the innate appeal of building a sculpture park, but the effect could in fact be greater.

a "living" garage in Miami, FL
{a “living” garage in Miami, FL}

the Kansas City, MO public library garage
{the Kansas City, MO public library garage}

As we commit to beautifying existing parking structures, we should also stop accepting “crap”. There are several examples of better garages in St. Louis. The Washington University Millbrook garage is large, but well sited and displays an appropriate façade. The St. Mary’s Healthcare garage fronting Clayton Road in Richmond Heights does an adequate job of disguising its purpose.

Washington University
{Washington University’s Millbrook garage}

The current title holder of most beautiful parking garage in St. Louis (no, there is no such title) likely goes to 600 Washington, part of the Mercantile Exchange development and reimagined St. Louis Centre. If you’re reading this, you likely carry baggage from the St. Louis Centre days, lament its transformation into yet another garage and regardless, could likely identify it as a parking garage from blocks away, but to the casual observer, it’s an attractive modern building.

600 Washington (previously St. Louis Centre)
{600 Washington (previously St. Louis Centre) – photo by countondowntown.com}

The Park Pacific garage held promise, if the early rendering were to be believed. It even appears that the current garage is very similar to the rending, stripped of all adornment. If you squint, it’s not too much to imagine a much improved garage with the addition of banners, signs and paint.

Park Pacific - old rendering - the residential atop the garage has been scraped, but the garage itself could be made similar
{the residential atop the garage has been scraped, but the garage itself could be made similar}

the Park Pacific garage nearly complete
{the Park Pacific garage nearly complete – photo by nextSTL Forum member goat314}

The Centene parking garage in Clayton promised to be something less than an eyesore on a main street in the business district. A windscreen, a sheet of small metal squares, was to cover the Forsyth Avenue facade. A year after completing, the windscreen isn’t up and the latest news is that Centene has asked for permission to change the design of the garage facade.

rendering of Centene garage and tower showing original windscreen
{rendering of Centene garage and tower showing original windscreen}

the Centene garage today
{the Centene garage today – photo by Flickr user pasa47}

There have been inventive and interesting parking structures ever since the personal automobile began crowding American streets. The book to read is “The Architecture of Parking”. We can do better, but it takes a commitment by the city and the people of St. Louis to value our landscape, to pay attention to our public spaces and shift our tolerance for crap from ridiculously high to zero.

1111 Lincoln Road in Miami, FL
{1111 Lincoln Road in Miami, FL by Herzog and de Meuron}

metal mesh and lights screen the facade of this garage in Austin, TX
{metal mesh and lights screen the facade of this garage in Austin, TX}

Cradle is an art installation on a parking garage facade in Santa Monica, CA
{Cradle is an art installation on a parking garage facade in Santa Monica, CA}

light panels cover a parking garage in Adelaide, Australia
{light panels cover a parking garage in Adelaide, Australia}

Parking garages in St. Louis span the design spectrum from awful to slightly less awful:

America
{America’s Center garage}

Taylor Avenue WU/BJC garage
{Taylor Avenue WU/BJC garage}

Scottrade garage
{Scottrade garage}

west side of Kiener garages
{west side of Kiener garages}

despite ground level retail, this downtown corner is horrendous
{despite ground level retail, this downtown corner is horrendous}

Renaissance Grand garage
{Renaissance Grand garage}

St. Louis University garage on Olive
{St. Louis University garage on Olive}

west Busch Stadium garage
{west Busch Stadium garage}

east Busch stadium garage
{east Busch stadium garage}

this Midtown garage offers some disguising panels
{this Midtown garage offers some disguising panels}

the new downtown municipal garage falls short
{the new downtown municipal garage falls short}

the WU/BJC campus is dotted with parking structures
{the WU/BJC campus is dotted with parking structures}

this garage on Taylor Avenue accommodates a Metro transfer station
{this garage on Taylor Avenue accommodates a Metro transfer station}

Metro parking garage - Clayton, MO{this Clayton garage may win the award for more creative use of brick panels}

the St. Mary
{the St. Mary’s garage offers a varied facade}

a soul-crushing scene on the WU/BJC campus in the Central West End
{a soul-crushing scene on the WU/BJC campus in the Central West End}

the WU/BJC garage spanning Euclid from Forest Park Avenue to Laclede
{the WU/BJC garage spanning Euclid from Forest Park Avenue to Laclede}

view of the same garage from Laclede Avenue
{view of the same garage from Laclede Avenue}

the WU/BJC North Garage was wisely screened by the Parkway Hotel
{the WU/BJC North Garage was wisely screened by the Parkway Hotel}

the Park East Tower garage isn
{the Park East Tower garage isn’t terrible, but still misses}

the Euclid garage occupies a prominent CWE corner
{the Euclid garage occupies a prominent CWE corner}

this downtown garage is art in itself, but could use some dressing up
{this downtown garage is art in itself, but could use some dressing up}

the Culinaria garage fits well with the surrounding context
{the Culinaria garage fits well with the surrounding context}

Marina Towers in Chicago blended the parking structure into the building form
{Marina Towers in Chicago blended the parking structure into the building form}

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Reddit0Share on LinkedIn0Print this pageEmail this to someone
  • Pingback: seedboxes()

  • Pingback: Petplay()

  • Pingback: Design for Grand Center Garage is Unacceptable - nextSTL()

  • Brandon Eversgerd

    Wow! I just wrote a blog post for my architecture firm, Lawrence Group, on this topic! (http://www.blog.thelawrencegroup.com/2016/04/26/parking-beautifully/) I hadn’t seen this post before, but great minds think alike I suppose! I think with some love, the garages off Keiner Plaza could be a great start to fixing some of our garages and the built environment in downtown STL.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Hey Brandon – nice post for Lawrence Group. Great to see big thinking coming out of STL firms.

  • Chicagoan

    One I’ve always not minded is Stanley Tigerman’s parking garage in Chicago’s Loop.

    It has an Art Deco-inspired automobile grille on the front, the parked cars are hidden from view, and there’s book shop, a convenience store, and a tavern fronting the street.

    Parking garages suck no matter what, but it’s worth putting money into them so they’re as pleasant as possible.

    Edit: Definitely didn’t do this whole picture thing right, sorry moderators.

  • citylover

    Is it possible to do something more with kiener garages? Office tower maybe. Would love to see some height with retail/restaurant on floor of garage. Imagine Bread co moving headquarters here and having a world class bread co on the first floor with an explanation and history of why it’s called “bread co” not “panera.” I feel like Energizer could have a fun presence downtown as well. Be cool to see something that has a strong presence in stl in place of kiener garages. It’s such a perfect spot.

    • Chicagoan

      That’d be great. Demolish one of the parking garages and coax Bread Co. downtown. The first floor could be a very nice Bread Co., meant to promote the very best of their concept.