The 2015 Parking Madness Championship! Camden vs. Parkersburg

Welcome to the World Series of asphalt. The Super Bowl of lifeless city blocks. Today is the Parking Madness championship — the culmination of our 16-city tournament showcasing the worst parking craters to scar America’s downtowns.

Are you excited? We are!

Streetsblog readers have winnowed the field down to two of the finest examples of poor urban land use you can find. When every level of government spends year after year prioritizing the movement and storage of cars, this is what you end up with.

Now there’s just one more vote to determine which city deserves the Golden Crater and the shame that comes with it (change-inducing shame, hopefully). Voting wraps up at 2 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow, and we’ll conclude this year’s tournament with commentary from special guest — drumroll, please — Donald Shoup!

Camden

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Camden squashed Mobile, Detroit, and Fort Worth in earlier rounds to reach the championship match. Joseph Russell nominated this parking crater. He explains:

My entry: the neighborhood-killing parking lots on the waterfront in Camden, New Jersey. Years ago, this area housed factories for companies like RCA. Ever since, they’ve been used as parking lots for the equally neighborhood-deadening L3 Building, which is essentially a fortress separating employees from the rest of the city. Residents of the Cooper-Grant neighborhood are trying to rebuild a viable neighborhood here, and the negative effects of these huge parking lots stand directly in the way of that goal.

Is it Golden Crater worthy? Let’s check out the competition.

Parkersburg

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.02.42 PM

Parkersburg has been a tournament darling, overcoming strong contenders in Boston, Amarillo, and Syracuse. The submitter of this photo, Elliott Lewis, said of this space:

Here is my submission for the Golden Crater, aptly named “Park”ersburg, WV. With a population around 31,000, it is the fourth-largest city in West Virginia and my hometown. This town has seen Native American raids on settlers (and vice versa), George Washington surveying, planned treason by Vice President Aaron Burr (check out the history of Blennerhassett Island), Civil War soldiers, some of the first governors of WV, Wright Brothers flights, birth of the country’s oil and gas industry, important transportation hubs, large-scale hardware and chemical manufacturing, and countless historical events. Those which took place downtown are likely under asphalt (like the home of the first governor of our state).

By my calculations, including street and sidewalk ROWs, the total amount of land in downtown Parkersburg is approximately 61% paved. Of the developable land in this same area (not counting streets), about 50% is dedicated surface parking, most of which is monthly rentals. Yup, the only short term parking is on-street, in one garage, or in a newly-built parking lot off of 6th St. They dedicate half their land to surface parking. Ugh.

The area in question, besides the entire downtown area, is that from 4th Street to the Little Kanawha River. Much of this is dominated by City, County, and Federal government services and includes the County Courthouse (beautiful Romanesque revival) and the Municipal Building (no so beautiful). From the Google Maps link, it shows some buildings currently demolished; the entire block between Juliana/Market/1st/2 is paved, as will the building across Market Street abutting 2nd St (the old jail). And to make matters more depressing, the area is bounded by elevated railroad tracks near Ann St., an at-grade railway, and a concrete floodwall.

Who will win the ultimate wake-up call to fix its parking mistakes? Vote and decide:

Which city has the worst parking crater?

  • Camden (53%, 145 Votes)
  • Parkersburg (47%, 130 Votes)

Total Voters: 275

parking_madness_2015

  • The Burg

    Native Pburger here…the downtown area of Parkersburg which has been the focus of this contest is terrible. The urban renewal of the 70’s destroyed what little architectural integrity that remained and the mall which was built around the same time sucked the life out of downtown like a starved vampire.
    Granted, I don’t think it was ever anything spectacular but several areas/neighborhoods were leveled to construct government/medical buildings. The housing that remains is generally low-income and the multi-story buildings lining the main thoroughfare downtown (Market Street) are probably 60% vacant when you take into consideration that the only floor being used is typically the ground floor. Nobody lives “downtown”.
    The worst part, in my opinion is the hideous flood wall that surrounds the city. They recently invested millions of dollars into revamping “point park” but the only way to access it is through a two lane engress/egress entrence. If you aren’t in the park you really cant see the river or Blennerhassett Island from anywhere in the city.
    Thankfully, I live in Vienna which borders Parkersburg to the north and I no longer work downtown…although I do love me some Cham’s Lebanese Cuisine.

  • OMG CAMDEN YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE! <3

  • Tim S.

    Truly a tough call, as both are deserving of this (dis)honor. In the end my vote went to Camden due to the active light rail line running right between the sea of parking!

  • I LOVE CAMDEN!

  • DTurner

    Camden by far, the picture only shows a small part of the damage, since this parking crater now expands north of the Ben Franklin Bridge and just keeps growing.

  • Bryan

    Camden loves parking. They will steal your building and add more of it whenever they can: http://articles.philly.com/2015-02-09/news/58933260_1_domain-case-parking-authority-eminent-domain

  • walking

    Camden has the potential to be very walkable. There’s Walter Rand Transportation Center, with dozens of NJTransit bus routes and the RiverLine light rail to Trenton, which connects with the heavy rail Atlantic City Line in Pennsauken and the Northeast Corridor in Trenton, with NJT rail to NYC and multiple Amtrak connections. There’s PATCO subway service into Center City, which is one of the nation’s only 24-hour rapid transit lines. There’s also the seasonal ferry to Penn’s Landing, and not to mention being walking / biking distance over the Ben Franklin right into the heart of Philadelphia.

  • JayinPhiladelphia

    Couldn’t have said it better myself…

  • Agreed!!! Use the train and bike often to visit Philly through Walter Rand and the RiverLINE. Sadly there is little to nothing to see in Camden. I did sleep on the Battleship New Jersey once which was VERY cool!

  • Nothing to see? Check out the following neighborhoods: Cooper-Grant, Lanning Square. I hang out on my girlfriends front porch in Lanning Square every change I get.

  • Kind of like Hoboken is to NYC, Camden has a 24-hour high-speed, high-capacity transit lines, and a beautiful view of the big city skyline across the river.

  • Stewart Clamen

    I don’t know enough about Parkersburg’s location to properly compare, but Camden’s situation is tragic. Its location (across the river from the fifth largest city in the United Station) is prime. Its existing public-transportation infrastructure (24-hour subway, 15-hour light-rail, bus terminal) is reasonably solid. It could be so much more.

  • Charles Buckley

    Parkersburg is essentially a cul-de-sac. It has to be the destination as there are very few roads in/out. No housing downtown, for the most part. Few businesses.
    There were 3 things that killed the downtown. 1) I-77 came in as a bypass. 2) The city blocked a mall development project, which just went to Vienna instead. 3) They tore down a lot of businesses between 5th street.

  • Charles Buckley

    Yeah, but without the floodwall, we’ve had floods clear up to 5th street

  • BC

    That article says the Camden “Parking Aurthority” took a perfectly good building by hostile eminent domain, and wanted the owner to get nothing for it. Pretty amazing government evilness.

  • basenjibrian

    Why are 90% of the cities and towns in the “Richest and Bestest Country on Earth” all like Parkersburg? Bleak parkingscapes surrounded by strip mall arterials and subdivisions.

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