Look How Much Space Is Dedicated Solely to Parking in Downtown Denver

All those green areas are used for nothing but storing cars. Image: Ryan Keeney

To hear the City Council tell it, what Denver really needs is more parking, even if it means making housing less affordable. But if you look around, Denver already has more parking than a healthy city should.

Even in the densest part of the city, vast parking craters and hulking, concrete garages run rampant. Ryan Keeney over at DenverInfill wanted to illustrate the madness, so he created these images showing how much space is dedicated to car storage downtown. It’s a lot.

More from Keeney on all the parking lots:

Superficially we believe that they are eyesores, but more important than that, we believe that they are underutilized pieces of prime real estate that suck the vitality from what should be the most pedestrian-oriented part of the city. When you have large areas of parking, there is minimal foot traffic and nothing to engage the people on the streets. From the pedestrian’s perspective, it is essentially a wasteland.

“When you walk on the streets, if you’re just an average Joe, you don’t quite immediately see that there are all these parking lots everywhere,” Keeney told Streetsblog. “It can really give a bad vibe to the place.”

The parking crater at 19th and Broadway is a quarter-mile of continuous space for storing private vehicles. Image: Ryan Keeney
At the parking crater by 19th and Broadway, you can draw a straight line a quarter-mile long and hit nothing but parking spaces and streets. Image: Ryan Keeney

Keeney, a grad student studying geographic information science at University of Denver, says he only highlighted land that’s used exclusively for parking — he didn’t even count buildings that mix garages and other uses. All told, he counted 237 acres land just for parking.

“I’ve traveled to other cities and other countries around the world and I’ve seen the alternative possibilities, and I’ve seen that so many other cities are completely infilled,” Keeney said. “Their center cities are so vibrant and filled with people, and that’s because they’re filled with buildings. And that draws people to the center city because there’s a lot of activity there. And I just eventually came to realize that these parking lots displace so much opportunity.”


Arapahoe Square is a neighborhood of parking lots. That will hopefully change with the elimination of parking minimums. Image: Ryan Keeney
An infilled block side by side with a lifeless block of parking. Image: Ryan Keeney
That yellow line slices through nearly a mile of parking lots. Image: Ryan Keeney
The whole shebang. Image: Ryan Keeney
  • Brian Schroder

    The city council does not want to usher in a new progressive urban Denver. They languish in outdated ideas and offer no solutions. We have mass transit, but RTD and city don’t seem to get the point that cars and parking need to be taken out the equation. How can we organize to vote these “representatives of the people” out of office in the next cycle.

    • JerryG

      The problem is not that the city is protecting this parking lots, which they are not, is that in the 70’s, 80’s, and a good part of the 90’s it was thought that having cheap and plentiful parking was the answer. This was true for the vast majority of the country. Fortunately, it no longer true but it will time to infill all those parking lots.

      • Bernard Finucane

        And the best bet would be to start at the fringes of the surface parking lots.

      • TonesOfLife

        The city IS protecting parking “spots” (parking minimums) which can deter certain development and leaves parking lots.

        They had a nice loophole for small properties to get out of these minimums but now the council wants to put a moratorium on these developments due to a few people complaining about not enough parking. (See map above)

        So much for affordable housing and another parking lot gone….

        • JerryG

          That is incorrect. In downtown districts, and that includes everything in that representation except properties east of Broadway, there are no parking minimums. In fact, the recently approved plan and zoning for Golden Triangle eliminated parking minimums there and the approved rezoning of Arapahoe Square accomplished the same thing. None of those developments that you are referring to are in downtown and that “loophole” only applied to other neighborhoods outside of downtown. Nevertheless, those parking lots are not being used by people who live downtown but by people who drive to downtown from elsewhere, and probably because they think it is easier and cheaper to drive rather use some other mode of travel. That has to change before it is no longer profitable for parking lot owners to stay in business.

          • TonesOfLife

            Id say this represents the building/parking ratio pretty well throughout the city, if you factor in suburban parking abundance.

    • mckillio

      You should write your your council people to try and change their mind set.

  • Mr H.

    Reading this as I gaze out my office window at two consecutive parking lots (with multiple empty spots). I could probably see more, but my view is blocked by a 12-story parking garage.

  • Walter Crunch

    Eliminate the parking mins and watch the city truly grow.

  • Bernard Finucane
  • JohnnyW

    And people wonder why there is so much traffic on Broadway/Lincoln. With all that cheap parking, why bother taking alternative transportation?

  • Joseph Meyer

    I just love the totalitarian mindset of “forcing” people out of cars.

    • kollidoscopeas

      The truly totalitarian midset was what tore down the buildings that once stood on parking lots and dumped streetcars. There is no better example of social engineering in American history than the set of policies that got people hooked on cars and suburbia.

      • Joseph Meyer

        Sounds like someone needs to Google “totalitarian.”

  • ProphetZarquon

    I have no problem with parking structures, as they’re a relatively efficient use of space, but these decrepit poorly paved lots that cost $15 to park are wasteful eyesores.

    Don’t even try to tell me there are no protections for parking lots in downtown Denver: If the two parking monopolies weren’t being heavily incentivized, those high-value locations would be high-rent buildings by now.

    I remember a few decades ago, some city council member vocally advocated *phasing*out* parking downtown: If there’s nowhere to park, people physically cannot leave their car downtown & traffic is reduced. By the same token, eliminating roads actually reduces traffic. It’s a mean-spirited & authoritarian way to go about it, but it is effective.

    I switched to a bicycle & car-sharing years ago, so I DGAF, really. I’m more concerned with the asinine way they’ve laid out the new bike lanes & the fact that RTD seems to be less useful than ever.



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