Redevelopment: Conversion of car parks into living space

Car parks are currently undergoing an epochal change. This type of building is not particularly known for its appealing design or inviting appearance. As an “intervention into the urban landscape” it represents a homage to the 60s and 70s, when the priority of urban planners was to make the city more car-friendly. But times are changing. Out of the shortage of residential space grew the idea to convert car parks into urban living space. This makes it possible to kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand this frees up much needed residential space, on the other hand this measure offers a solution for the change in mobility behaviour in the 21st century. 

Car parkCar parks in the focus of urban planners

Cities are becoming increasingly attractive as places of residence, which is causing a shortage of living space, especially in the inner cities. This insight is not new and does not require any further explanation. But why have car parks in particular moved into the focus of urban planners and architects? The answer is quite simple: human mobility behaviour has changed. While cars used to be the epitome of a status symbol and the most popular form of transport, the younger generation in particular now prefers using public transportation or bicycles to get around. Car sharing or online transport services such as Uber are also becoming more and more popular. This is leading to decreased demand for car parks. According to the Bundesverband Parken, car park occupancy has dropped to around 50 to 60 percent. This seems a waste of space and offers the opportunity to use empty space more efficiently – namely for modern concepts. These combine car parks with commercial or residential space in order to create a multi-purpose building that blends into the urban landscape much better than mere concrete structures.

Current redevelopment projects

A pilot project is currently underway in the inner city of Cologne, which could become the role model for other cities. Several storeys of the “Alte Wallgasse” car park at Friesenplatz are being cleared to create space for 32 apartments and four to five penthouses. What is special about it is that the developers are planning a mixed use of the building and are not tearing down the entire car park. In fact, the project wants to keep 250 of the 450 parking spaces. A new entrance with staircase and lifts is being built so that the future residents do not need to access their home via the car park. A new facade out of perforated metal is to upgrade the appearance of the building and harmoniously blend together the parking and residential levels. A similar solution has been completed in the inner city of Münster. Here, a car park was turned into a multi-purpose building containing commercial as well as residential space under the same roof. The conclusion, therefore: although the redevelopment of car parks is still in its infancy phase, it indicates a growing trend. According to Brigitte Holz, President of AK Hessen, 20 to 25 car parks can be considered for redevelopment in Frankfurt alone.

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