Space race: Parking is needed for Downtown living to flourish

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All problems aren’t necessarily bad news.

Pittsburgh has an enviable one because of the growth in Downtown living, a predicament that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. There’s been such a burst in the residential scene that it has exacerbated a parking shortage that previously was the sole concern of commuters.

Even though the trouble is triggered by a positive development, it cannot be ignored.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s 2014 report said that between 2000 and 2010, the residential population Downtown grew by 1,053 people, a jump of nearly 41 percent.

The partnership estimated that during the last three years, another 1,176 people have moved into what it calls the greater Downtown area, which includes the rivers’ northern and southern shores, the Strip District, Uptown and the lower Hill District.

A lot more growth is expected. In the past three years, 824 new residential units were added, 517 are under construction and 2,229 more are proposed. Add that to an office occupancy rate of 92.8 percent — higher than that of 14 comparable cities — and the parking shortage becomes a significant concern.

The partnership said it recently has been hearing parking concerns from developers, which wasn’t the case three years ago. Merrill Stabile, president of Alco Parking, estimated that Downtown needs 1,500 more spaces.

The city must make sure adequate parking is a feature of new residential developments in the greater Downtown area, and the public parking authority’s involvement may be necessary to increase the supply.

If Downtown is to continue its transition from being just a place to work, city leaders are going to have to figure out how to solve the parking shortage.

Meet the Editorial Board.

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