The proposed Gowanus Whole Foods is moving forward after eight years of planning and debate, following a vote by the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals today. With it will come a 248-space surface parking lot: a semi-suburban design plunked down amidst some of Brooklyn’s most walkable neighborhoods.
According to new research by University of Pennsylvania planning professor Rachel Weinberger, whose work on parking minimums Streetsblog highlighted earlier today, putting those spaces in a surface lot will discourage people from walking to the grocery store.
Weinberger’s research, conducted with Donald Maley of the Parsons Transportation Group, compared how local shoppers reached six Philadelphia supermarkets [PDF]. Each store was located in a neighborhood with the fundamental components of walkability: rowhouses or apartment buildings that meet the sidewalk, a street grid without major arterial roads, no big box stores.
Three of the grocery stores, however, had large surface parking lots in front of the entrance, while the other three had a front door on the sidewalk and parking in structures above the store or in off-site structured garages.
Surveying residents living within a half-mile walk of each supermarket, Weinberger and Maley were able to show that residents near the groceries with surface parking lots tended to drive to the store, even though they had a lower car-ownership rate overall. “Controlling for distance, number of children, store loyalty, auto ownership and other factors, residents of study areas near auto-oriented supermarkets are more likely to drive, even though they are less likely to own automobiles, than their counterparts living near pedestrian-oriented markets,” the authors wrote.