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Developers Finding New Uses for Old Parking Garages

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By Janet Moore

Project manager Chris Sherman said the renovation is going well, although there was “some tough stuff with environmental abatement and we’ve also taken four to six layers of the roof off to install a new roof.” But the building’s previous life as a manufacturing operation made its conversion to housing easier due to its tall windows and high ceilings, he said. The apartments are expected to open in the fall of 2014.

That’s not to say the process of reconfiguring a parking ramp is an easy one.

Ryan Cos. decided to incorporate an existing parking ramp into its 222 Hennepin mixed-use development in downtown Minneapolis, the home of a former Jaguar dealership. Since 1957, the solidly constructed ramp was used to store autos before sale.

When the Minneapolis-based developer designed the new Whole Foods-anchored apartment complex, the store and residential units were essentially wrapped around and then built on top of the parking structure, said Mike Ryan, the firm’s director of architecture and engineering.

“It was definitely a design, development and construction challenge,” he said. “We didn’t want the experience for the user to feel like they were living in an old ramp. When you walk into it, you have no clue that it’s a 60-year-old ramp.”

Merging an old building into new construction was challenging “because everything doesn’t necessarily line up at first,” Ryan added.

Of course, those challenges aren’t in play if a new parking garage is built with a mixed-use sensibility. The poster child of that phenomenon is the 1111 Lincoln Road ramp in Miami Beach. The snazzy $65 million glass-and-concrete “sculptural parking facility” opened in 2010 and pioneered a new iteration of “carchitecture,” as the New York Times called it.

The 300-space garage, which also includes high-end retail shops, offices, apartments, penthouses and a rooftop restaurant with water and city views, has become a tourist attraction.

©2013 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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