Ellandi investment manager, David Cohen, asks if there is a future for physical car parks

Posted by Retail Destination on 4th Mar 2019

Is there a future for physical car parks as the placemaking movement gathers pace and what will their role be?   

In the current market, owners/ operators must be creative to ensure their car park continues to serve a purpose and remain relevant to the local population. Car parks face increasing pressures from; fewer young drivers, declining footfall in town centre retail locations and rising costs.   

This has led to the emergence of ‘Mobility Hubs’.  

Inherently, car parks occupy prominent town centre locations, have large floorplates and excellent accessibility; these characteristics together with relatively cheap costs of occupation mean that car parks have been transformed to last mile delivery stations, Deliveroo dark kitchens, EV charging stations and perhaps soon, driverless car depots.  

Data Driven Hubs

In many regional locations, implementing a Deliveroo dark kitchen is not viable and therefore, being able to optimise the performance of a car park from parking vehicles remains vital to the asset’s longevity. Owners and operators are now alert to the benefits that a data driven approach can provide. A car leaves a data trail every time it enters and exits a car park, measuring the customer’s behavioural patterns. This includes information about the date and duration of visit as well as the amount and method of payment.  

This data can be analysed to deliver wider benefits. This is particularly true for shopping centres, where the car park is usually a customers’ first and last impression of the scheme as well as their primary parking destination. If the customer service between these adjoining buildings can be optimised, this can lead to a myriad of benefits including longer dwell times and increased spend, which can translate to higher turnover for retailers and more successful lease renewals. The greater the understanding, the better the chance of finding and implementing value accretive solutions.  

Placemaking Movement  

Many key town centre stakeholders are now adopting a holistic approach to bring a purpose and vibrancy back to their location.  

At Ellandi, we work in partnership with Local Authorities to achieve these benefits for our schemes and their respective town. We believe that creating a destination with a strong sense of place, shaped around the people who use it, lays the foundation for a sustainable future.  

Car parks provide an opportunity to create vibrant and attractive community hubs that cater for a mix of uses. This could be repurposing the asset in full or part. Where the need for parking remains, dynamic and flexible structures that respond quickly to the use of the asset will prevail as they will be able to transfer under-utilised car parking space to pop-up retail, leisure, F&B or other uses.    

The car park will have a role to play in the changing town centre landscape; what that will be will depend on each location and the needs of the local population, as well as the extent to which key stakeholders are willing to deliver and implement the required change.

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