Parking Madness: Minneapolis vs. Columbia, South Carolina

Today we’re getting a look at the last two contestants in Streetsblog’s Parking Madness bracket, the tournament that will “crown” the worst parking crater in the U.S. But don’t worry. Milwaukee, Tulsa, Dallas, Atlanta, Louisville, Cleveland, Houston, and today’s winner still need to do battle to determine the final victor. The final first round match-up is Minneapolis versus Columbia, South Carolina.

First, Minneapolis. Twin Cities resident Eddie Cunat sent us these photos, taken from his downtown office building.

This crater is located on the corner of 9th Street and 2nd Avenue South in the City of Lakes. It takes up an entire city block, with the exception of two very tiny-looking buildings. Eddie tells us: “That structure in the upper right is also a parking ramp, formerly home to the Leamington Hotel.”

An alternate view shows the crater nestled against some of the city’s tallest buildings.

One more aerial photo shows the area more broadly:

Eddie says:

This is a picture of the East side of downtown Minneapolis. You can see where the tall buildings abruptly end and they are replaced by parking lots. I have noted each surface lot and dedicated parking facility in the area with an icon. The area is covered with them. The Metrodome is the white facility near the center.

But enough about Minneapolis. Here we have Columbia, South Carolina:

This scene is just a stone’s throw from the state capitol. (The wooded area in the bottom right corner shows the edge of the grounds.) Note the almost complete lack of cars in this picture, midday. Perhaps this is a weekend scene? This area is home to a few odd restaurants, an army recruiting station (in the top center, with the garage on the roof), and not much else. Just out of the frame is the Richland County Public Library.

Here’s an extremely desolate street-level view facing away from the statehouse.

With that, let’s vote.

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Columbia (52%, 158 Votes)
  • Minneapolis (49%, 149 Votes)

Total Voters: 306

Winner: Columbia!

Next week: The “Elite Eight” face off for Parking Madness ignominy.

  • The majority of downtown Minneapolis is covered in roads, parking lots, and above ground parking garages (which usually have little or no ground floor retail). I’d bet combined they make up well over 60% of the total area of the downtown.

  • Alan

    Minneapolis is bad in that shot, but it does have density and parking lots can be redeveloped as I guess the light rail is still in the works a bit there. Columbia looks like straight up suburbia to me except for the grid pattern.

  • Ann

    The crazy thing is until they built light rail all those lots were full and cost an arm and a leg to park in. Now, they are empty and cheap. Gotta love light rail. Now they just need to turn some of them into green areas, which is actually something Minneapolis is good at.

  • Rick

    Minneapolis has three times the population of Columbia – for its urban design to even be comparable is pretty embarrassing for Mpls.

  • vcs

    Back when I lived in Minneapolis, I always wanted to live at that lonely brownstone in the middle of downtown.

    Local leaders used to be driven by a huge existential fear of the suburbs and the abandoned downtowns seen in other midwestern cities, and were very agressive in “redeveloping” abandoned buildings into parking lots. Whether it worked or not is debatable, but the downtown is still alive and doing ok. However, they’ll never get back the architectural heritage they lost.

  • Anonymous

    Why spend on parking lots that are not used on weekends or at night? Such a waste!

    (Yes, that’s a parody of “why build bike lanes that are ‘not used’ during the winter?”)

  • Anonymous

    Having lived in South Carolina and visited Minneapolis a few times, I can tell you that Minneapolis is in a far worse situation. Despite the relative vibrancy of Minneapolis’s downtown, the land area taken up by parking is absolutely astronomical. Columbia surprisingly isn’t all that bad about parking although I don’t feel it’s that great of a city.

  • Peter

    Downton Columbia hasn’t changed much since the ’70’s. Most of the population and business growth has been in the northeastern suburbs, leaving the downtown desolate. If it weren’t for state gov. anf the University, it might be deserted!

  • Mack

    Minneapolis – for years – purposely planned for parking to be at the perimeter of the dense downtown core. This allowed for easy walking among the office towers and retail via the skyway system. And it works. The lots are being filled as the city expands outward. 4 of the blocks near the Metrodome will be for a new Wells Fargo mixed-use development and of course the Metrodome itself will be replaced with a new stadium next year. Many of the blocks toward the north end are currently under construction with infill residential buildings. Yes, the east end of downtown is currently a parking wasteland, but look at the other side – it’s booming.

  • The lots are being filled VERY, VERY, VERY slooooowwwwwlllllllyyyyyyy. The Dome was built in 1982, and aerials of the blocks around it look much the same now as they did then. Compare that to BC Place in Vancouver (built 1983). It also had acres of adjacent asphalt many years, ago, but it’s almost gone now.

    That is a terrible plan anyways. Much of the parking in dt. Minneapolis is in above-ground garages that kill vibrancy and aren’t going to be developed any time soon. That plan did not “work”. What they should have done is put all the parking in underground garages beneath the towers. That way you’re not wasting any land on hideous parking garages that kill the streetscape.

  • Matt

    Not anymore.

  • btsc

    You have obviously not been to Columbia in years.

  • Stranger in the Alps

    The cost of going underground is prohibitive. Part of the problem is that when thew dome was built, the area around it was zoned for light industrial. That is a very specific type of zone for which there never was much demand, particularly on high-value downtown land. In the last decade, the zoning was changed to allow for mixed use commercial and residential. Since then, downtown has spread to the east, especially along Washington. As Mack pointed out, there is a large, multi-building, multi-purpose project in the works that will convert about six blocks of surface lots into actually useful space.

  • Stranger in the Alps

    It’s coming.

  • Stranger in the Alps

    A city with three times the population, serving as the CBD of a metropolitan area that is four times as populous, has a similar amount of parking in downtown? And that’s a sign of bad urban design on the part of Minneapolis? Huh?

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