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The Suburban Parking Crunch

The evolution of the modern open office design is putting a major strain on parking availability – particularly in suburban locations – where landlords are considering significant steps to satisfy tenant needs.

Many existing suburban office locations have parking ratios of 3.0 or 3.3 per 1,000 SF of leasable space – numbers which made sense when each employee took up 250-300 SF. But as denser open office layouts have multiplied, the average space allocation per worker is now approximately 150 SF, which would require closer to 6.0 spaces per 1,000 SF.

“Public transit is very limited in the suburbs, so everyone drives,” says Ryan Romano, a Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield. “Many companies won’t even consider properties unless they have 4.0 spaces for every 1,000 SF.”

Even in downtown Boston, where public transportation is everywhere, available parking can be both expensive and difficult to find. The city requires just 0.4 spaces per 1,000 SF of space in the CBD, and can also grant waivers for less. The New Balance building in Boston Landing in Brighton has faced headwinds due to its parking ratio of 2.0 spaces per 1,000 RSF despite the construction of a new commuter rail station.

Technology has allowed for many employees to work remotely on a regular basis, says John Boyle, Vice Chair at Cushman & Wakefield, which means on some days parking crunches may be less strained. But on many days, tenants will need to park more cars than usual, which forces many landlords to find a way to overcome a property’s lack of parking.

Some suburban complexes have invested in dedicated shuttles which can connect employees to commuter rail or MBTA stops, or evaluated purchasing adjacent land for additional lots.

Others have considered ways to add on to existing parking options. However, the average cost to build a parking structure is roughly $22,000 per space, Romano says, and even adding a second level to an existing parking lot can cost about $11,000 per space. Additionally, many suburban neighbors may object to the construction of a parking structure which would increase traffic through residential neighborhoods.

It’s crucial to discuss parking options and remedies when evaluating a lease commitment, Boyle says, since going over the allotted parking amounts means tenants could be in default on their lease on Day 1.

“You’re making a long-term commitment to a space, so you need to make sure you have enough parking for your employees,” says Boyle. “You don’t want to talk about cars being towed after you’ve moved in.”

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