Way back in this post, I mentioned that the nearly-finished Utah Valley Convention Center apparently would only have very limited on-site parking.
But it appears I spoke too soon. Yesterday, when I was in downtown, I asked a worker what was going on in the picture below. He said crews were building a parking lot for the convention center. The new lot will be located on the corner of 100 North and Freedom Blvd, on the site of the former Zion’s Bank Building.
The conventional wisdom is that a parking lot will be a positive thing because, of course, it will allow visitors easy access to their destinations.
I strongly believe, however, that that wisdom is wrong. Furthermore, putting a parking lot in this location is a distressing waste of space and a negative addition to downtown for the following reasons:
1. There is already more than enough parking in downtown. Directly northeast of the convention center lies a 350-space parking lot. This lot is almost always empty and it’s only a street’s width further away from the convention center than the lot currently being built. It is a paid lot, but that’s typical for parking in a downtown. And in any case, there are literally thousands of parking spots in the surrounding blocks, all of which are within walking distance by the standards of any major city.
2. A parking lot immediately adjacent to the convention center — especially one on 100 North — gives people no incentive to walk through downtown. This is the same issue that the Tabernacle Temple may have: people will drive to their destination, park, and finally leave without a compelling reason to explore the area on foot. Some people will certainly get out into downtown, but that number will be far lower than if the parking lot was on the opposite side of Center Street. In other words, downtown businesses are more likely to experience the collateral benefits of a convention center if visitors have to walk by them en route to their cars.
3. This intersection will be really hot in the summer. The urban heat island effect is already in full force in this area already due to the existing parking lot mentioned above. It’s miserable to walk in this area.
4. Parking lots fail to generate revenue, especially when there is little or no quantifiable need to build them.
5. Parking lots are ugly. I’m perpetually amazed at the lack of planning that goes into the way visitors will perceive Provo. Welcoming people with expansive swaths of asphalt appears to be the general strategy, though I’ve never been inspired to visit or praise a city that welcomed me with similar aesthetics.
My hope is that this is a temporary solution. I’ve heard talk of putting a hotel in this spot and either way land in the area should increase in value until maintaining a parking lot becomes economically untenable. By extension, a permanent or longterm parking lot would suggest that downtown is not, in fact, experiencing real revitalization.
But either way this is disappointing because for the time being this parking lot effectively encourages people to avoid Center Street.