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What if the Empire State Building met typical parking requirements?

May 29, 2023 by Nicole Mason
Urban Planning

DHIRU THADANI    MAY. 19, 2023

Under typical office parking requirements of a conservative 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor area, it would require 56 acres or 15 New York City blocks to serve the Empire State Building if the parking were provided in surface lots. Completed in 1931, in the pre-parking urbanism era, the iconic skyscraper is within walking distance of Pennsylvania Station, Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and two subway stations.

The parking that would be required amounts to 8,100 spaces, at 300 square feet per space—nearly as large as the floor area of the Empire State Building, which has 2.7 million square feet of office space. Currently, there are no parking requirements on the Island of Manhattan below 96th Street—but Manhattan is not a typical city.

The illustration shows how parking has shaped the built environment in many cities and towns across America for over seventy years. This policy has created vast oceans of asphalt in the suburbs. In downtowns where parking requirements are enforced, parking lots have taken up much of the land area that formerly contained historic buildings. Where buildings are spread out due to parking, there is no way to provide the density of transit service and walkable streets that allow urban areas to flourish, and certainly not that found near the Empire State Building. Parking has devastated our cities and towns.

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