More high rises means less public parking in downtown Denver

'Our Colorado' looks at if that's a good thing

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DENVER -- If you drive into downtown Denver, finding a place to park is getting a lot more difficult as a result of development; with high rises taking over surface lots. 

“It’s treacherous, it’s difficult, it’s cumbersome, there’s not a lot of spots to be had,” one driver told Denver7 about the current parking situation downtown. 

New renderings have been released of a 30-story high-rise office building on the corner of 15th and California. It’s a development called “Block 162” and will be taking over the entire surface lot next door to the Denver Pavilions. 

It’s not the first, and won’t be the last new development to take over flat lots and build up. 

“In a downtown like Denver surface parking lots are an interim use. They’re a way of holding onto property until you find a more valuable use for that property,” Don Elliott of Clarion Associates said.

Elliot works in land use planning, and basically helps cities write their codes for development. 

“There’s always a tension between people who like surface parking to park there and the opportunities to develop it to something else,” he said.

So when it comes down to a lot with 20-50 cars in it or a high rise for offices, retail, or housing, development wins. 

“I believe every medium and large city I know in America favors redevelopment of vacant property downtown into revenue, jobs, and housing more than they value preserving surface parking," Elliott said.

Denver’s Office of Community Planning and Development basically agreed. They wrote in a statement: “The intent behind the downtown parking regulations is that in downtown, the highest priority is given to the pedestrian.”

A preference of development over surface parking is mainly a financial decision, but a side effect can include people changing how they get around. Many growing cities like Denver have been pushing for a wider use of public transportation, bicycles, walking, and other forms of transportation. 

Less lots also means a higher cost to get a spot for those who work or visit downtown by car. 

“Demand rises, supply can’t rise fast enough, prices go up. It’s the price of being popular,” Elliott added.

“I gotta look harder, I gotta be more strategic, and find out where to park,” one driver said.

In its downtown core, Denver does not have any requirements that new buildings, including high rises, have any parking included in them at all. Some choose to build their own garages, but in most cases that is to support the people of that high rise and isn’t open to the public. The rest of Denver does have separate parking requirements. 

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