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Does This Parking Garage Make My Apartment Building Look Too Big? Reshaping Multifamily For Gen Z

If you are a multifamily developer or construction firm, get ready to put your wrap-around parking garages on a diet, or at least build them flexible enough to reduce their footprints in the future. 

BKV Group’s Jonathan Delcambre, moderator Craig Bergstrom with UEB, The Howard Hughes Corp.'s Mark Bulmash, Rabbet's Will Mitchell, the city of Dallas’ David Noguera

Millennials and to a greater extent Generation Z — the demographic born between 1995 and 2010 — could turn the world into a car-optional one, leaving expensive underground, wrap-around and above-ground parking garages in a lurch. 

One of the biggest uncertainties on every product is parking, The Howard Hughes Corp. Senior Vice President of Development Mark Bulmash said. Bulmash served on a panel at Bisnow’s Multifamily Annual Conference in DFW with Rabbet CEO Will Mitchell, BKV Group’s Jonathan Delcambre, the city of DallasDavid Noguera and moderator Craig Bergstrom with UEB. 

Howard Hughes is having to think carefully about the future of parking as it strategizes how to build out 270 acres in Allen, Texas, into a master-planned community known as Monarch City. Developing the community will take years, and planning for parking needs requires thoughtfulness.

Bulmash has heard predictions that demand for parking space in garages is going to drop anywhere from 25% to 30% as younger generations give up cars, relying more on public transportation, automated self-driving vehicles and walkable neighborhoods. 

Research from the University of Toronto reported by ScienceDaily suggests all urban parking locations could suffer if self-driving cars take off in the future, and even the rise of car-sharing can reduce the number of spots needed in any given project.

Streetsense's Jamie Sabat and Eric Burka

Bulmash and his team are having serious discussions about what to do with parking garages. 

Do they go ahead and reduce their garage footprints by a certain percentage and tough out any overflow until the market readjusts, or build them out to scale today? 

Bulmash said one solution is “shared parking.” If developers can add complementary uses, they can reduce parking to an extent and control costs.

But, Bulmash said, these efforts need to be collaborative to work. 

BKV Group partner Jonathan Delcambre said his architectural and construction services firm considers parking a challenge, but he is already spotting innovative strategies in the field to cope with impending changes. 

There are some existing garage projects built out with enough flexible space to convert the parking areas to offices later on. 

UEB principal Craig Bergstrom said he is working on an office building where the garage is leaving 14 feet between each floor to ensure easy conversion to offices and other spaces later on. 

It is not just parking garages that are changing; entire lifestyles are adjusting as some people in Gen Z turn 22, and that means leaving room for flexibility throughout multifamily properties. 

With the multifamily space expected to serve this cohort in the coming years — and aging baby boomers who are looking at smaller footprints as they retire — the apartment world is less about amenities and more about services and experiences.

Streetsense Managing Principal Eric Burka and Director of Trends & Consumer Forecasting Jamie Sabat told BMAC’s crowd that developers need products that contain a point of distinction. 

This could come in the form of a coffee shop on the street that connects directly to the apartment dwelling, green areas and rooftop sites. 

But they said the big change is the number of services younger generations expect to have at their fingertips, everything from in-house dry cleaning, reserved parking spots, improved delivery, on-site housekeeping and pet amenities. 

Sabat noted that because markets change so quickly and specific programming is expected, clubrooms or other common areas should be designed with enough flexibility to accommodate new demands. 

Colliers' Mark Allen, Roscoe Property Management's Kelly Blaskowsky, IOTAS' Chad Summers, Domus Studio Group's Penny Diaz, Greystar's Toni Reeves and Sonder’s Michael Merryman

Open areas throughout buildings should be fluid enough to transition for multiple purposes, panelists serving on BMAC’s Property Optimization panel suggested. 

That panel included Greystar Executive Director Toni Reeves, IOTAS Vice President Chad Summers, Domus Studio Group founding principal Penny Diaz, Roscoe Property Management Senior Regional Vice President Kelly Blaskowsky, Sonder Head of Real Estate Michael Merryman and moderator Colliers Senior Vice President Mark Allen. 

Blaskowsky said Roscoe is looking at business centers on-site and changing them to include fewer desktop computers, while creating more spaces for laptops to create a type of office-sharing arrangement. 

Reeves said even when dealing with value development, spaces inside apartment communities should be flexible.

You may keep a fixed-seating media center, she said, but make sure it is flexible and the seating can be removed to put something new in later on.