No Parking: Report says big box retail seeking less space for cars - Streetsblog

Nestled near the Columbia River in Wood Village, Oregon, is the largest Walmart in the Portland region. The building spans three-and-a-half football fields, but it’s dwarfed by something else: the surrounding parking lot, twice as big as the store itself.

When it expanded from a Walmart to a Walmart Supercenter in 2004, its floor space increased by 45 percent. The parking lot grew less, though, only adding 36 percent more spaces.

That’s because, as it turns out, Walmart has been quietly reducing its parking ratios for years.

Case study: Walmart reduces parking

“Every time we reevaluate, we pull it down a little bit,” said John Clarke, the head of real estate for Walmart, in a report on parking reform published this year by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy.

That’s great news for the environment. More parking leads to more driving, suburban sprawl, and urban heat islands.

At the peak of its parking investment, Walmart was building six parking spaces per thousand square feet of store. “Now we’re willing to have as [few] as four spaces per thousand,” said Clark. “That means on a big store, we went from 1,200 to 800 spaces. It has a big impact: on the size of the land needed for the store, the cost of striping and cleaning the parking lots, just to light it at night. It’s a significant cost factor for the facility to have one less stall.”

Fast forward to 2021, and most of the spots that the Wood Village Walmart Supercenter added are no longer in use at all. In fact, Walmart has chained off about 25 percent of its parking lot, effectively shrinking it to a ratio to 3.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet. Even on Black Friday afternoon, the busiest shopping day of the year, the lot was still nowhere near full. Here’s the one-quarter of Walmart’s parking that is now chained off from use:

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