A new take on parking garages

Long Island Index study inspires updated designs for ‘these ugly cement things’


The Long Island Index revealed the results of its ParkingPLUS design challenge last week, showcasing new and innovative ways to improve parking in four Long Island communities, including Rockville Centre.

Rockville Centre worked with Boston-based Utile Inc. Architecture + Planning to design three parking structures for the village that are more than just stacks of concrete. The final plan is called Civic Arches, and could add 150 to 400 new spaces in the village, as well as green space, pedestrian walkways, rental housing, tennis courts and more.

“The opportunity to rethink parking on Long Island is enormous,” said Jocelyn Wenk, director of the Index’s Build a Better ’Burb website. “There are more than 4,000 acres of surface parking lots in and around Long Island’s downtowns. … By creatively reimagining that underutilized plan, we could transform our downtowns and conquer the challenges facing our region.”

Working with village representatives, Utile came up with three designs for garages that could replace surface parking at municipal lots 2, 22, 3 and 5. Instead of proposing a single solution, the firm came up with what it called a “prototype” of what could be built: a parking garage with soaring arches and open space that is easily convertible to other uses and does not tower over the rest of the village. The design blends parking, green space, public access and pedestrian walkways.

“The idea of these things is that during the commuting week, the ground floor is parked when the parking demand is highest …,” said Tim Love, the founding principal of Utile. “But on the weekends or on low-demand days, parking is not allowed on the ground level, and that space is available to the community as a sort of open market hall — the arcade. We imagine flea markets, food festivals, food trucks, high school events could happen there. That it would become part of the urban fabric.”

The garages would be built economically, according to Utile, and the savings would go back into the buildings, with added features like car bumpers on the upper levels that would double as planters. “We tried to put the value-add back into the structure itself, rather than as add-ons,” Love said.

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