Less Parking, More Healthy Food

The other day, we looked at a supermarket in a densely populated part of New Haven that is unwelcoming to pedestrians. Today, courtesy of member blog The City Fix, we’re taking another look at urban supermarket planning, specifically the issue of how to get quality food markets built in underserved neighborhoods (so-called food deserts) — where people often walk or take transit to the store. They write about how cities like New York and Washington, DC, can encourage supermarket construction by relaxing onerous zoning requirements for parking spaces:

2698531404_a3dcb8f508_m.jpgShe doesn’t need a parking space. Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr.

The New York Times…mentioned that one of the strategies New York City is using to attract more supermarkets into food deserts is to change the city’s zoning laws that would “free smaller supermarkets from having to supply parking spaces.” Reducing or eliminating parking minimums for new development is good urbanism.
But if it can help provide affordable, accessible, and nutritious food to low-income residents of the District — which is already a District goal — the planning commission has one more very good reason to wean us off of cars.

The District is taking steps to achieve this. Anita Hairston, the Chief of Staff of the Office of Planning, assures me by e-mail that:

–Any commercial building (this would include supermarkets) located in the central employment area of the city and is connected to a Metrorail station can have their parking requirements reduced or eliminated.

–Any commercial buildings that are less than 800 feet from a Metrorail station can have their parking requirements reduced by one-quarter.

–Any planned unit development project (regardless of location) can work with staff in our office to propose potential reduction or elimination of parking requirements.

Elsewhere around the network: The Complete Streets Blog shares its view on the Oberstar bill. We hear about a meaningful cash for clunkers program north of the border, via Sustainable Montréal (this one offers transit credit or money toward a new bike). And Active Transportation Alliance has the scoop on an iPhone bike app.

  • Here in NYC, we’ve got our own issues with supermarkets, and with politicians who seem to believe that the only way they can support a viable supermarket is by destroying beautiful old buildings for subsidized parking to create a destination supermarket. I hope Tish James reads some of these articles and blog posts.

  • Ugh, is there anywhere in America where food shopping is more miserable than in NYC? I was appalled to see how awful the supermarkets are when I moved here a dozen years ago.

  • It’s worse in Detroit; I drove all over downtown Detroit for three days and found only one supermarket.

  • Case in point: Whole Foods’ stalled plan to build a store with a whopping 420 parking spaces in the Gowanus, which, by its own admission, would generate more than half a million new car trips annually. The city has taken no action to try to limit parking and encourage alternatives, and Whole Foods has stonewalled Park Slope Neighbors’ proposal for a better plan.

  • Parking spaces? The only supermarkets in Manhattan that I can think of with parking are the Cherry Street Pathmark and the 12th Avenue Fairway. My local Morton WIlliams has a driveway, for deliveries, and a couple of bike racks for shoppers.

    The bigger problem, at least in Manhattan prior to The Great Recession, was that property has become far too valuable to be “wasted” on supermarkets. Why sell food when you could rent to a bank or a drug store?

    Maybe Brooklyn developers feel they need parking for all those Manhattanites who will be buying groceries in the outer boroughs? Not that we drive cars much anyway.

  • Grocerant food or ready to eat and ready to heat foods are showing up all around the country. This is a great thing. It’s fresh, and ready to go and in most locals there is less packaging! That is even a better thing.

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