How can I add more parking spaces? It’s a question I hear frequently from office building owners, developers and property managers. Office building densities are rapidly increasing, and this has led to a desire to add parking spaces, sometimes up to a ratio of six spaces per 1,000 square feet.
Several decades ago, offices were designed to accommodate densities of 300 sf per employee, on average. Now, many owners are interested in developing or renovating their buildings to accommodate more open floor plates, sometimes referred to as lightly or fully demised.
The French word demise means “to give away.” In architecture, the term is used to describe boundary lines such as office walls and other dividers within the building. The theory is that millennials and certain industries such as architecture, design, technology, web- and application-based startups, and other “creative professionals” prefer open and more collaborative work environments.
Another factor is that less area is needed for paper storage. Items such as resource and law libraries, records retention, code books, manuals and plan sets are available in digital format. As a result, many office buildings are accommodating densities of around 200 to 250 sf per employee, with some companies even going as low as 150 sf per employee.
To accommodate this trend, commercial brokers and tenants are asking for more parking. Owners, whose buildings previously supplied somewhere in the range of 3½ to four spaces per 1,000 sf are struggling to find five to six spaces per 1,000 sf to attract new tenants and satisfy new lease commitments.
But is the quest to add parking spaces always the best approach?
Our recent studies confirm that the demand for parking at some office properties is increasing. However, from a commercial leasing standpoint, there also is significant evidence that many employers and brokers tend to overestimate their parking needs by around 20 percent because they don’t adjust for presence factor (i.e., the percentage of employees who many not drive to work on a given day or may not be present at peak hours due to meetings, paid time off, travel and telecommuting). Also, employers often underestimate the impact of transit use and other transportation alternatives on parking needs, especially in markets where monthly parking rates are high. It’s a mistake to assume that all employees want to drive to work or can afford to do so.