A big box mall built in Manhattan - East River Plaza - had to rely upon expected traffic models from suburban malls and got it all wrong, according to Streetsblog:
East River Plaza, the big box mall designed for Massapequa and placed in East Harlem, still has a thousand-space parking garage. And given its location in one of the lowest car-ownership neighborhoods in the country, the garage is still as empty as when it opened, despite big subsidies for parkers.
Thanks to new research from Rutgers urban planning student Kyle Gebhart, whose paper on East River Plaza (pdf) won first prize from the American Planning Association’s Transportation Planning Division, we now know just how badly the project’s developers whiffed when building that massive garage.
East River Plaza’s 1,100 space garage still looks like this, according to new research by a Rutgers planning student. Less than five percent of spaces on the upper floors of the garage are full, even at peak shopping times. Photo: Noah Kazis
To find out how the garage was being used, Gebhart went down to East River Plaza at two peak shopping times, the early evening of the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the afternoon of the first Saturday in December. On the Tuesday, only 33.6 percent of the 1,103 spaces in the garage were occupied. On Saturday that figure had only crept up lightly, to 38.6 percent.
The top floors of the garage were essentially empty. Between 0.6 and 5.8 percent of the spaces on the upper levels were filled, according to Gebhart’s survey. One section of the third floor of the garage had been fenced off and converted into storage space rather than parking.
In contrast, the developers predicted that the garage would hold a whopping 1,190 cars on an average Saturday afternoon in the environmental impact statement for the project.
How did they get it so wrong? As East River Plaza developer David Blumenfeld explained to Streetsblog after the mall’s opening, he built his calculations around data from suburban big box stores. In the early 1990s, when the project was first conceived, there weren’t any big box stores in more urban settings. “There was no model to go off of,” said Blumenfeld. “There was only the suburban model.”