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Letter to the editor: Building housing in empty parking lots

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A new trend is coming to a car park near you: housing. For generations, we’ve overbuilt our malls and malls with oceans of unused parking spaces – part of an overly cautious policy to ensure every station wagon has its place on Black Friday. For most of the year, a significant proportion of this land remains unused. Just look at a Google satellite view of a big box parking lot anywhere in America.

Final rendering of The Downs Town Center in Scarborough, the site of the former Scarborough Downs Racecourse off Highway 1. The mixed-use development of The Downs and Freeport Town Center will be a free Greater Portland Council of Governments event on Tuesday at Freeport Town Hall. The photo of the stockings

While online shopping traffic has increased, retailer traffic is down. Cities are beginning to turn to these wastelands for another desperate demand: housing. Introducing new housing into shopping districts is not a new idea – we’ve been doing it for centuries before the advent of the strip mall.

It turns out that housing next to retail businesses leads to increased foot traffic from customers, greater demand for a greater variety of goods and services, and higher tax returns for the city. Additionally, this concentration of density makes the numbers work for transit, allowing more frequent travel options for residents and customers (reducing the need for more parking spaces).

It is the new and old trend of urban development. Come see how Freeport is reinventing its downtown core by converting excess parking into a livable neighborhood. We will also discover why the developers of Scarborough Downs sought the same balance between businesses and residences to make their project work. Coffee is offered next Tuesday, October 25, at Freeport City Hall beginning at 9 a.m. Free and open to the public.

Robert O’Brien
Senior Director of Economic Development, Greater Portland Council of Governments
Portland


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