Take a Breath Bella Vista, Your Parking Lot is Back

We’ve been pretty direct in our complaints about surface parking lots over the years, lamenting that they never represent the highest and best use for a property. To be clear, this isn’t just a matter of us spouting urbanist rhetoric, though most urbanists would surely agree that surface parking lots are bad; surface lots are also a loser from a public policy standpoint. Parking lot operators have to pay 22.5% gross tax on parking revenues to the City, but that doesn’t compare to the property tax revenue that would be generated (post abatement) by even a modest sized building. But hey, we get it- we go to enough community meetings to know that everyone believes parking is a crisis, and that sentiment becomes even more fevered as you get closer to Center City.

So you can imagine the tone of some of the emails we’ve gotten of late from worried neighbors, convinced that the public parking lot on the 700 block of Christian Street was closed forever. And we can’t blame those folks for worrying, as this lot has been closed for at least the last couple weeks, its entrance blocked by chain link fence. Though we’re not sure we ever saw an available spot in this lot, we suspect that many area residents have come to rely on its existence as a release valve for parking needs in the neighborhood. And for those worried neighbors, we have some good news…

View of the parking lot from across the street
West side of the lot
East side of the lot

The parking lot reopened this week! The temporary closing was needed so that the City could level the lot, resurface the lot, repair the front wall, increase pedestrian lighting, and repaint the lines to improve the layout of the lot. As part of this new layout, the lot has a new mix of residential permit parking and non-permit metered parking, to provide residents and visitors alike with parking options. As surface parking lots go it looks pretty good, but be that as it may we would have preferred to see the lot converted into an apartment building. We imagine the people living nearby don’t share that perspective, though.

Fleisher lot next door, still not developed

Speaking of properties crying out for redevelopment, the lot immediately next door to the east is also still being used as a surface parking lot, though with much less regularity than its City-owned neighbor. As we told you a couple years ago, this lot is owned by non-profit art school Fleisher Art Memorial. When we told you about the property in 2016, we mentioned that the school was looking for a development partner to build a building on top of their lot, but pointed out that an eventual project here could take many possible forms. We figured we’d have some idea as to what would be happening here at some point last year, but we’ve got nothing at this time. Has anyone in the neighborhood heard any updates?