As surface parking lots go, the lot on the northeast corner of 15th & Bainbridge is rather innocuous. It’s got a relatively clean look, with two rows of cars with a drive-aisle in between, it’s fenced-in, and there’s landscaping to blunt the impact of a vacant lot full of vehicles. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the lot is the cost of a space, a well below market price of $140 per spot. Good luck getting one though, we don’t imagine they come available too often.
You probably noticed, there’s a zoning notice posted on the parking lot fence in the images above. That might seem strange, as this property has been used as such for many years. The property is zoned CMX-1, a zoning designation in which non-accessory parking is expressly prohibited, so back in 2011 the owners got a variance to use the property for parking. That variance had a five-year term, so they had to go through the zoning process again to get fresh approvals for the property.
At the community meeting a couple months ago, a discussion centered around the fact that SOSNA had supported the application back in 2011 with assurances from the owners that they were intending to develop the property within a few years. With that at least partially in mind, the neighborhood didn’t support the application. But the ZBA nevertheless granted the variance earlier this week, and unlike the previous variance, this one doesn’t have an expiration date. So it’s quite possible/likely that this property will remain a surface parking lot for the long haul. This feels a little odd, especially considering the rows of high end homes on both sides of this block of Bainbridge Street.
It should come as no surprise that we’d prefer to see this property redeveloped, perhaps as single family homes or alternatively as an apartment building. This is only one block away from the South Street West corridor, and additional density at this location would only help the businesses nearby. Unfortunately, we might be waiting a long time to see any kind of development here, given the now permanent variance allowing the parking lot. That being said, we have to think that it’s only a matter of time before a developer steps in with an offer so compelling that the current owners strongly consider selling the property. Until that day though, a couple dozen people will continue to benefit from some inexpensive parking spaces.