The real parking problem in Dayton

Parking meter shot

It's time to rethink parking downtown

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Bruno Furnari via Compfight

Imagine what would happen if NYC enacted rules requiring one parking space per every 1000 square feet of living space?

NYC wouldn’t be NYC.

That’s because the whole value of a dense urban downtown is that by cramming people together, you create critical concentrated buying power that supports retail. People in NYC don’t have cars- they walk, they use public transit, they use taxis. It works.

So why does Dayton stifle development with requirements of x parking spaces for business, residential, commercial? Because we’re stupid.

Cincinnati on the other hand is thinking of abolishing parking requirements to spur growth and to shift the cost of owning a car back to the car owner instead of to the real estate developer:

Cincinnati’s vice mayor has proposed a zoning change to allow developers to avoid minimum parking space requirements in downtown and Over-The-Rhine.

Roxanne Qualls introduced the motion Tuesday with support from City Council members Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young.

The city currently requires one parking space per residential unit in the central business district and Over-The-Rhine, where developers are building new projects and rehabilitating older spaces as apartments, condominiums and commercial properties.

Depending on the location, developers typically build either structured parking lots or buy more land for surface lots, which sometimes requires building demolition.

Nashville, Tenn., Portland, Ore. San Francisco, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., are among the U.S. cities that have already eliminated parking minimums to reduce the cost of housing and free up space for commercial and residential development.

Downtown Cincinnati Inc.’s most recent quarterly study found that there are 36,473 monthly contract parking spaces downtown, with 4,375 spaces available.

“Cities are recognizing that allowing the market to function will produce a better result,” Qualls said. “If a developer wants to build an 800-room hotel without providing any parking, that’s probably not going to meet the demands of the market. But if a developer can sell or rent his units without meeting minimum parking requirements, then there is no need for them.”

Chad Munitz, of developer 3CDC, said the average cost to a developer is $5,000 for one surface parking space and $25,000 for a structured parking space. That cost is then passed on to the consumer, he said, raising the price of a residential unit by as much as $25,000.

Muntz said many residents of downtown and Over-The-Rhine use their cars infrequently, if they have one at all.

“The convenience sought by downtown residents is not instant access to a car; it’s the ability to live without a car,” Muntz said.

If approved, the parking requirements would be lifted within 30 days.

via Plan Would Allow Development Without Parking – Cincinnati News Story – WLWT Cincinnati.

Dayton’s Oregon District has buildings that have been rendered worthless because of these stupid requirements. Because it’s a historic district you can’t tear down anything to build a lot- and there are only so many spaces available. No developer is going to build a garage in the Oregon District (partially because the city transportation center garage is so close- and vacant most nights) because there isn’t enough demand for parking and the rates they could charge wouldn’t pay back the structure.

It’s time to change the zoning laws to release real estate from coming with parking- and to look at other options to allow more people to come downtown without having to park right at the door. Some solutions: free parking for 2-wheeled vehicles on sidewalks if not impeding walkers, a bike-share system to help facilitate moving from fringe parking lots to core buildings, changing more on-street parking to end in, like they’ve done in front of the Cannery on E. Third Street- which almost doubles the parking density, and lastly- turning the Oregon District into a pedestrian mall every weekend to attract more walkers, to increase opportunities for more retail, which will help getting occupancy up to 100% in all buildings on all levels and give us the kind of population density that can support more retail.

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BrianCuriousDavid LauridjwJoe Recent comment authors
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Perhaps you haven’t tried parking in Manhattan recently.  I can attest that their system is the work of illiterate lunatics who must have been home-schooled.

The problem with downtown Dayton isn’t parking.  The problem is that we have a number of urban planners who think it’s a good idea to “calm” traffic by making it more complicated.  This problem is seen in the current mish-mosh of two-way and one-way streets, the brief attempt to turn Monument by Riverscape into a faux-brick road by carving a tile pattern into the blacktop (yeah, pure stupid, with granola on it!), and the moronic proposals to turn Brown Street into two-lane rather than selective four-lane.

Streets ought to be for transportation, not art. 

Kim Owens
Kim Owens

So what do WE need to do to get this change enacted?



Your comment about Manhattan misses the point. Yes parking in Manhattan is for lunatics… so DON’T HAVE A CAR IN MANHATTAN!

Yes, let’s turn the Oregon District into a walking mall on weekends. Americans can get off their fat a$$es and walk one or two blocks for their entertainment. 

J Dziwulksi
J Dziwulksi

I’ve always agreed with this concept.   Let people figure out where to park. Trying to shoehorn modern “suburban” parking concepts  into a built environment mostly predating the car is nuts. 



Never understood complaints about parking downtown.  The complaint roughly translated is “There’s no parking within 50 feet of my destination downtown.” 


Yes, parking requirements are bad public policy, for the reasons you state. This is an issue where the libertarian position is unequivocally correct.

But it’s worse than that. I don’t support parking requirements anywhere, but in some built environments I can see why they’re controversial–namely, places where parking is actually difficult to find and public transportation options are inadequate. The former does not apply to Dayton, unless you think having to walk a few hundred feet is an extraordinary hardship. They’re bad policy in general, but especially places like Dayton.

But the historic district catch-22 takes us from bad to worse to demonstrably insane. The city has created a combination of policies that directly contribute to empty storefronts in the cities most valuable commercial real estate district. It’s nuts.

I know our current mayor often reads this site. This is an issue I’d love to here him chime in on. What do you have to say about the historic district catch-22 on parking? Do you agree it’s a problem? What do you propose to do about it?  

David Lauri

A fun article, “The Old Parking Fight Is Over! (Let the New Parking Fight Begin…),” appeared yesterday in Seattle’s independent paper The Stranger:

The question is no longer whether the city council will abolish the current parking requirements—it will. … However—calm down, everyone—the current rules would only be eliminated for new developments located within a quarter-mile of “frequent transit stops” (i.e., busy Metro routes and light rail corridors). As a result, developers will have increased freedom in choosing what to build and where.


From the city’s zoning code: “150.700.5 Parking in Downtown Districts:  There are no minimum parking requirements for uses located in the central business (CBD) and urban business (UBD) zoning districts, with the exception of multi-family and single-family attached uses in the UBD. See sub-section 150.320.5 (A), Provision of Off-street Parking. (Ord. 30515-05, passed 12-28-05)”

I don’t think this includes Oregon, but a good start–better than most cities.  Could probably be adapted to include Oregon if that’s what they wanted.


David, I love that block–and I think it is zoned CBD, which means there are no parking requirements at all for anything.  I do get your point.


@David, 3rd/Jefferson is in the CBD, not UBD.  UBD kicks in at Patterson Blvd.


I did find that same updated zoning code.  Light reading.  :) 

150.320.5 Off-Street Parking Requirements 
(A) Provision of Off-street Parking.  Permitted uses, except multi-family dwellings and singlefamily attached uses in the UBD District, shall not be required to provide off-street parking as stated in sub-section 150.700.5, Parking in Downtown Districts.  Multi-family and singlefamily attached uses in the UBD District shall provide one-half (.5) space per dwelling unit.   

150.700.5 Parking in Downtown Districts 
There are no minimum parking requirements for uses located in the central business (CBD) and urban business (UBD) zoning districts, with the exception of multi-family and single-family attached uses in the UBD.  See sub-section 150.320.5 (A), Provision of Off-street Parking.  (Ord. 30515-05, passed 12-28-05) 

While there aren’t city regulations requiring a specific # of spaces for a downtown redevelopment project, there are likely to be state or federal requirements (or strong recommendations) if the developer applies for funding:  low-income housing credits, Ohio Housing Finance Agency bonds, Historic Tax Credits, etc.  Some of those funding sources are competitive, and the project is judged based on many factors, including access to adequate parking, which have been shown to lead to better success rates in similar projects.

There are also some market demands, since not everyone is ready to fully embrace the urban lifestyle and give up their car.