Downtown LA is getting a new, dare I say, sexy parking structure in north South Park at 8th and Francisco. I usually wouldn’t consider a new parking structure newsworthy, but this project is being designed with a lot more thought and concern for aesthetics, so I thought it should be highlighted as an example for other parking structures to follow. Designed by Downtown LA-based architect firm, LeanArch, the parking structure is being developed by landowner and giant parking operator Joe’s Auto Parks as a mixed-use project consisting of not only parking but with office and retail components as well according to a development executive I spoke to at the company.
When completed in early 2015, the six story parking structure occupying about an acre of land will add 560 public parking spaces to a burgeoning area, and will also become the new headquarters for L&R Group of Companies (which is Joe’s Auto Parks parent company). L&R will be relocating from 550 S Hope in the Financial District into a corner 22,000 square foot office space constructed on the top sixth floor of the parking structure with windows facing 8th and Francisco streets. The rest of the structure will be wrapped in vertical metallic panels over a concrete frame giving the structure a contemporary look akin to the also-sexy brand new Parking Structure 6 in Santa Monica.
In addition, retail space will be incorporated into the ground floor helping to activate the sidewalks along both 8th and Francisco with pedestrian activity. When L&R set out a year ago to build their new parking structure/headquarters, it was still uncertain whether or not the massive four-tower Metropolis development — located across Francisco St — would actually happen. The current renderings provided by LeanArch don’t show retail space within the project, but company officials at L&R have decided to modify the plans to include retail space now that the Metropolis’ ground breaking is imminent. With so much commercial and residential activity anticipated around this area in the near future, it made perfect sense to add retail into the parking structure to contribute to that energy.
Parking structures are a necessity in even transit-rich downtown cores because, well, a lot of people still end up driving into the city. Go to even pedestrian-oriented Chicago or San Francisco, and you’ll still see parking structures dotting the landscape. (Check out some examples in Chicago.) But the difference between most parking structures in these other cities and Los Angeles is how they look. Many parking structures in LA are just plain bland, if not ugly. For a city as obsessed with cars as we are, you would think we would have designed some of the most compelling parking structures in the world to house all our wonderful cars in (like the Collins Park Garage in Miami designed by Zaha Hadid).
I think the new Joe’s parking structure definitely raises the bar on design. It should be a model for other future parking structures in Downtown LA and even existing ones if we can remodel them to look nicer. If we’re going to have parking structures, they should contribute more to the community than just a place to hold our cars in a boring shell. Adding retail and even an office component in this case will help activate our sidewalks, and just as important, being well-designed will send a message that Angelenos do care about making our downtown aesthetically more pleasing — even if it is just a parking structure.
For a few more examples of other sexy parking structures, click here.