By David M. Feehan

The cover of the April issue of The Parking Professional featured a banner that stated, “Four Days to Change Your World.” Lately, I’ve been doing some research into mega-developments–projects that will change the world for many of us.

I live only a couple of blocks from such a project. It is called the Montgomery County White Oak Science Gateway or alternately, Viva White Oak. This multi-billion-dollar project will transform the area surrounding the U.S. government’s Food and Drug Administration headquarters campus into a mini-downtown, with offices, apartments, retail shops, restaurants, and parking.

But how much parking, for whom, and where is a very big question. This project is likely to be built out through a couple of decades, during which time the world of parking and mobility (and transportation in general) is expected to experience radical change.

White Oak’s project is not a one-of-a-kind. I was involved in the early planning for the Towerside project in Minneapolis. This project, adjacent to the University of Minnesota, already has a major attraction—a brewery that is so popular it is nearly impossible to find parking on-site at lunchtime.

Developers are looking at sites adjacent to major research universities, hospital clusters, or government centers to build what are essentially mini-downtowns. Some of these new developments are called innovation districts, others are eco-districts, but whatever they are called, they are having to wrestle with transportation, mobility, access, and parking issues.

Part of the problem is developers don’t know exactly what the projects will look like in 20 years. As technology, architecture, and business structures evolve, the physical characteristics of the development could change dramatically. Will the development be served by public transit? If so, in what form–buses, BRT, light rail, trolleys, or something else? How much on-site residential can the project hold, and will people walk to work and to shopping and dining? How will people’s social habits change as a result?

Many metro areas are now seeing mega-developments, some in central cities, some in suburbs, but these will change the world for many residents, and will certainly change the world for parking professionals.

David M. Feehan is president of Civitas Consulting, LLC.