The historic Detroit Bank Building at 151 W. Fort St. may be in jeopardy. The Penobscot Building’s new owner tells the Detroit Free Press’ John Gallagher he wants to demolish the Bank Building to make room for a parking garage.
Andreas Apostolopoulos, the head of Triple Properties, told the Free Press on Thursday that he’s studying how to create more parking for his Penobscot Building tenants. His first choice, he said, would be to demolish the bank building, but he is also studying whether he could keep the façade of the building intact and build a parking garage within it.
“Detroit needs parking,” he said. “If we don’t have parking people won’t come downtown… We tried to bring some tenants downtown and the people are not coming because there is no parking.”
The merits of preserving the Detroit Bank Building may be debatable, but the notion that downtown Detroit has a parking shortage is fiction. Downtown has a shortage of *free* parking, sure, nosane person believes Apostolopoulos’ proposed Detroit Bank Building garage would provide free parking as a gesture of civic good will.
What’s more, even on days with multiple events (Tiger games, concerts, the Auto Show, etc.), there is an abundance of places to park in the Central Business District. Most spaces are available for far less than they would command in comparable downtowns across the country.
Even in the relatively dense area near the Penobscot Building, there are multiple large surface lots that could easily house parking garages if the market truly demanded more garages. Parking lot owners, who seem pretty shrewd about turning a buck, don't exactly seem in a hurry to increase the CBD's parking supply.
You know why “people are not coming” downtown for real?
Because, compared to other cities, there aren’t that many things to do downtown.
Because many of the places where people used to do stuff downtown have been reduced to unsightly blacktop parking lots.
One might be tempted to give the new Penobscot owners the benefit of the doubt here and assume these guys know their business. The problem is downtown developers like Apostolopoulos have been pushing the “there’s no parking downtown” trope for 50 years. It’s a myopic strategy that, clearly, hasn't worked. As parking has expanded, the city continues to lose residents and downtown workers.
More parking never seems to fix downtowns. Pontiac built the boondoggle that is the Phoenix Center so their downtown could have 6,000 parking spaces. They’re planning to knock it down now because, however amazing the parking, no one wants to go to Pontiac.
Ultimately, it seems like these developers won’t be happy until downtown is one giant parking facility. It's almost as though people seriously believe that on that great and glorious day, when all buildings and people are finally removed from downtown to make way for ample parking, Detroit will finally be perfect.
Hey, good luck with that.