More thoughts on the detrimental effects of large urban parking lots

In my City Talk column today in the Savannah Morning News, I write about the depressing news that the large vacant lot at the corner of Drayton and Charlton appears destined to be a surface parking lot for the nearby Andrew Low House.

I say in part:

Surface parking lots are among the worst uses of urban space.

They tend to rend the residential and retail fabric. They repel pedestrians. They generally generate far less economic activity than more intense uses. They create heat islands. They contribute to problems with drainage and polluted stormwater runoff.

When they’re owned by governments or nonprofit organizations, surface lots take significant chunks of land off the tax rolls.

And they’re ugly.

I had hoped that surface parking lots would slowly be whittled out of the Historic District, but depressed land values have apparently raised the odds that organizations with the most cash and with no fear of property taxes — governments, churches, and other nonprofits — might degrade the urban fabric with more surface lots.

A few pics and comments:

There used to be a great old gas station at Charlton and Drayton -- a building that seemed perfect for some other use. Now, years after the demolition of that building, we're going to get a permanent parking lot to replace this temporary one. (This is the pic that accompanied my column today.)

A parking lot at Drayton and Gordon owned by Wesley Monumental. Doesn't this seem awfully ugly for a city that prides itself on its beauty?

From the same parking lot. We can do better than this.

Drayton and Taylor. More parking for Wesley Monumental. At least an attempt at landscaping, but hardly any attempt to make the lot look good.

A lot at Drayton and Jones owned by EMC Engineering Services, Inc. Not great, but better than some.

I don't mean to pick on Wesley Monumental; lots of Savannah's churches own ugly surface parking lots, like this ill kept one on Hull St. owned by First Baptist Church. In addition to the obvious ugliness, this one adds insult to injury with the front-facing entrance (there's a lane in back) that takes up two on-street parking spaces.

In my dream world, the churches and other organizations that own these lots — which are essentially blight — would step up to the plate and make them look better. And, down the road, they would recognize that these lots and all those like them are detriments to the urban fabric.

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