2013-03-15

Co.Exist

This New Apartment Building Trades Its Parking Spaces For Gardens

Bucking a city rule that required any new residential building to also include new parking spots, a proposed new set of apartments in Boston is taking the space that would have gone to cars and doing something more interesting with it.

Many people think of Boston as one of the better American cities to be a car-less citizen, but the city’s building codes don’t necessarily cater toward the car-free community. For decades, the city has required architects and developers to include room for parking spots (as many as two per unit) in all new residential constructions, whether or not those residents actually need them. The result is that neighborhood space skews toward parking lots and away from greener uses.

Architect Sebastian Mariscal, calls such parking requirements "excessive and not representative of today’s social and environmental demands. We want to build for people not cars."

His firm, Sebastian Mariscal Studio, might get a shot, if its proposal for a new, 18,000 square foot, mixed-use, 44 residential unit building in the Allston neighborhood gets approved: Its design doesn’t include a single parking spot.

While the plan is currently making its way through the community approval process, Mariscal is confident that the neighborhood will embrace the project. He cites the stats that nearly half of renters in the census tracts surrounding the development don’t own a car. And ignoring the constraints of designing for parking frees him up to include amenities like "a large public garden/plaza on the ground floor, 46 private green open-spaces, and community gardening beds on the roof"—a hefty amount of green space in a neighborhood with far more parking lots than parks.

"We cannot place all the responsibility for changing our city on the authorities," said Mariscal. "It is important that architects and community members work together to meet today’s challenges with new ideas. We believe that every change, even those that begin at a small scale, can influence much larger changes across the city.

Boston has the capacity to take a forward-thinking stance on this issue given its density and infrastructure as well as its progressive community. Boston built the first subway system in America. It is a city of firsts."

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