Parking Decks and The Warehouse District

Citrix parking deck under construction

At the corner of Morgan and West Streets, the parking deck for the new Citrix offices has been rising for the past few months. The warehouse renovation into offices next door has pretty much taken shape, creating four floors for downtown’s newest, major tenant.

Any old parking deck that’s being built is usually not an interesting thing to most but this specific one has something here. It may be the elevation or the relative buildings around it but this deck just seems ominous and big.

There’s a small story here and I’m putting the pieces together each time I walk by the Citrix site. What happens when the next Citrix comes into town? Will more of these decks continue to be built?

If you look deeper behind this parking deck, you may get a glimpse into the future path that the warehouse district is on.

The Upcoming Citrix

Let’s start off by taking the focus off Citrix itself. In an interview with the N&O, Jesse Lipson, starter of ShareFile, now owned by Citrix, tells reporter Bruce Siceloff that they will have about 500 employees when they move into the building in 2014. What is not mentioned is that the parking deck will be built for about 400 cars, something you need to dive into the planning commission meetings to find out.

Citrix should be applauded for providing less car parking than employees. Their company culture encourages alternative transit and the downtown office should bump up the number of those types of commuters. They are also a web-based company and teleworking is a common practice. They are at or near the minimum number of spaces needed according to city code.

Less is More

While this behavior for our downtown sounds good, it could have been even better.

After the start of construction of its downtown site around January 2013, Citrix wanted to expand even more and made plans for an additional floor in the office component. This lead to a conversation during a certain May 28, 2013 planning commission meeting when Citrix applied for approval of that same expansion.

Citrix developers were applying for a 40,000 square foot expansion of office space, what was referred to as ‘Phase 2.’ In addition to approval, they also wanted an exemption to having to raise the number of new parking spaces that would have to go along with the new office space. More office space equals more needed parking, according to zoning.

Before the addition, Citrix was providing 341 spaces where city code required them to be at 325. With the office expansion, code would require them to raise that number to at least 400. Citrix wanted out of that and made an argument why in their presentation before the planning commission.

So to show the numbers clearly:

  • Citrix phase 1 – 341 parking spaces planned, minimum of 325 according to code.
  • Citrix phase 2 – 425 minimum needed according to code.

Here’s the 55-minute planning commission video of that presentation and followup discussion. Watch the first 24 minutes for an overview of the entire project and to get a peak at some of the amenities of the Citrix building.

Municipography – Dillon Supply Warehouse Redevelopment Phase 2 on Youtube

During the presentation, the Citrix reps state such things like:

  • Citrix runs three shifts so employees come and go 24/7, spreading the traffic out.
  • Citrix promotes alternative transit and biking with plans for a 100 space bike storage including showers.
  • 86% of employees are remote for one day of the week. This equates to about 70 people on any given day being off-site.
  • Kimley-Horn, a local engineering company, reviewed the proposal and supported Citrix’s request for a parking increase exemption. (jump to 31:35 in the video to hear their points)
  • Kimley-Horn also noted that downtown currently has a gross oversupply of parking and is facing a revenue problem.

Currently, 1 parking space per 500 square feet of office space is the code. However, a good point that the Citrix reps make is that the site will have gym and recreation spaces, a lobby, and a large auditorium. The parking count may not have to rise for these amenity spaces and if you subtract them, the actual amount of spaces needed including the new office expansion is now 329. (still below the 341 provided at this point)

This sounds like a great fit for an urban area as the parking needs are smaller than most. These are the types of places that would be great for a transitioning downtown. Employees here don’t punch a clock at 9am and 5pm, contributing to a typical morning and afternoon commute. Activity should be ongoing throughout the day and night around the Citrix offices, supporting that 24-hour downtown that supporters are trying to build.

After the presentation things started to turn.


If you want to watch this part, jump to about 24:30 in the video.

A few commissioners expressed concern about the lack of detailed information on how many employees would be on site at a time. Without this detailed information, commissioners could not anticipate any potential problems that, if Citrix was wrong in its parking usage, would permeate out across the warehouse district in the future.

Commissioner Steve Schuster, who by the way is one of the leads at Clearscapes Design Firm and is probably an expert on the warehouse district because of their heavy involvement on Raleigh Union Station, stated, “We’re about to face a parking challenge in the warehouse district.”

Schuster’s thinking was most likely based on ongoing analysis of the entire warehouse district and how development could boom here in the near future. Schuster, with the backing of other commissioners, felt that allowing this parking reduction exemption would set a precedent for future developments here, further exacerbating the parking problem. (the upcoming challenge)

The conclusion to the meeting is that the commission motioned to defer the office expansion so that Citrix could bring back more details on employee counts. They approved the deferral. Remember, this application was for the office expansion but parking dominated the discussion instead.

Citrix reps then, right on the spot, made a move to drop the parking reduction exemption, raise the parking space count to 430 in an effort for construction to stay on schedule. This was approved and Citrix got their office expansion.

A missed Layup

While I tend to always challenge parking minimums and preach about the need to reform parking management, there is a real concern with too little parking. As city staff stated during the discussion, having too little means that cars start using spaces in nearby areas that weren’t intended to handle that kind of traffic.

If Citrix had too little parking, the thought, shared by the planning commissioners, is that nearby Boylan Heights and the rest of the warehouse district would pick up the load. The neighborhood isn’t zoned for that kind of activity so the result would be an inappropriate use of those streets.

The planning commission mentioned the precedent that could be set by allowing Citrix to be exempt from the minimum required parking. They were afraid that future developments in the warehouse districts would also want that exemption, resulting in an area that continues to struggle with the so-called “parking challenges.”

What bothers me here is the handling of the request from Citrix and how it fits into the future vision of the warehouse district and downtown as a whole. Aren’t we trying to become a little more urban? Aren’t we trying to create growth nodes, filled with density that support alternative transit? Haven’t we identified that the city has a parking oversupply and is spiraling into debt?

I felt like the commission had a perfect candidate, one that asked for a parking exemption and is compensating for it with the exact urban culture that downtown Raleigh needs. Instead, it was status quo and the future of the warehouse district is on a path for more parking decks.

I know we can’t magically turn urban in just a few years. The way to get there is to have small victories that transition us there. It takes small steps. I think more people need to realize that.

We didn’t take that step here with Citrix and the way I see it, the planning commission has now made it more costly to building in the warehouse district, threatening any preservation of the warehouses we have there, and continuing to support a car culture in a very walkable, human-scale area of downtown.

In the spirit of basketball going on now, the commission had an open lane for an easy layup but instead passed the ball for someone else to decide what to do.

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  1. The real emerging problem is how parking decks break up the continuity of the streetscape. Consider how inhospitable the areas of downtown are where most decks are located.

    Parking is not free. When motorists are not charged a market rate to bring their cars into downtown the rest of us pay for it in the form of higher prices from retailers and restaurants who have to bear the cost and in lower wages from employers.

    We need a downtown blanket liability policy that would encourage property owners to open their parking lots to the public.

  2. Beautifully written, Leo. I love the new Citrix building but am totally with you on the deck… huge, bulky, ugly, and most of all TOTALLY distracting from the great look of the ACTUAL building it’s for (the Citrix building). BIG missed opportunity there…

  3. Let’s say they built a 341 space parking deck and it routinely fills up…

    If the other employees can find open available spots (in the warehouse district, in boylan, in other parking garages)… then fine, what’s the big deal? Let them.

    And if they struggle to find a place for their 2,000 lb piece of metal & plastic then they will be forced to reconsider their commute… bus, bike, carpool, or maybe shift their arriving time.

    The smaller parking tower would’ve been just fine.

  4. Unless the parking structure was also to be used by the public in the off-hours, then I’m not really sure why the city is involved.

    Seems like it would be an employer-employee issue: if Citrix started to have trouble keeping employees because they couldn’t provide them parking then that would be their problem.

    Just like apartment buildings… if an apt building doesn’t want to provide parking then its on them to try to sell units to people who don’t need parking. I don’t think we need parking minimums, let the market decide what’s needed in each case.

  5. Need new city ordinance: Any new parking deck must reserve a minimum of 50% of its ground floor for retail use. This will help with the street scape and make any new development more pedestrian friendly.

    Tell them go look at the 7th street parking deck in Charlotte as an example: Two restaurants and a city market focusing on locally sourced food & drink all on the ground floor.

    Heck, while we’re at it let’s require parking decks to include covered bike lockers, too.

  6. Also, are they going to finish putting that faux brick on the whole thing at least? It has it in the renderings. It isn’t pretty up close but I think from a distance it would look better than the plain concrete. At least the top of the parking deck will offer some nice shots of downtown.

  7. I am not too happy with the deck and the view now when you are heading East but that area need tenants with the money to do a major remodel of the old warehouse to start the changes in that area.

  8. I am probably in the minority – and it is too late right now to change things – but when I heard of Citrix’ decision to move to a former warehouse I screamed with pain. This company should have chosen a new building, like Charter Square, or The Edison… or anything except what they chose.

    Much like many forumers, I don’t mind renovating older warehouses if they have character, but with additions like the parking deck shown in the photo, such renovations create eyesores. I am sorry, but as happy as I am with Citrix coming to downtown, their choice of office space offset my optimism. This parking deck is simply an eyesore that will tower above everything around it for a very long time :(

  9. mike’s link to the photo with ivy growing on the parking deck would be AWESOME. cover the whole damn thing, now THAT would be something worth looking at

  10. The first floor looks tall enough to accommodate retail. Is ground floor retail not in the plan?

    Parking will continue to be tricky. The idea of minimums is to not just to provide for the 400-500 employees that will be working at Citrix everyday, but also not to overburden the surrounding uses. Without a better alternative in place, city officials and developers must find a balance. It’ll take both parties, in addition to citizens to define what that balance is.

  11. The parking deck definitely looks a bit out of place, but I’m still really excited about that place opening up. I think a lot of valid points have been raised, though I also think we might be missing the forest for the trees. Think of nothing but a vacant building being there, and now we have something nice (the actual office), plus a bunch of people working downtown who hopefully want to live there. Coupled with all the new apartments and condos, this is still a great thing for the city and our vision for it.

  12. The office portion of the Citrix renovation looks really fantastic. I’m grateful for their investment in downtown, and wish more large Triangle employers offered a similar forward-thinking vision.

    Also remember that Citrix cited the planned Union Station as one reason for their site selection, and their choice has certainly been a catalyst in progress toward a downtown transit hub.

    Yes, the parking garage is big and will always be visible on eastward approach. It’s a painful reminder to all (myself included) who favor design for walkability over cars. But reality is that Americans love cars, and (whether powered by gas, electricity, or flux capacitators) cars will be part of our social and work fabric for the foreseeable future. Downtown Raleigh (and its employers) must accomodate them. Consider the alternative: do you want to take out another 300 acres of forest for a low-density suburban office campus?

    A big thanks to Leo, for your ongoing exploration of downtown parking issues.

  13. Well said, Renpark and great analysis, Leo!

    Hopefully Citrix and Red Hat grab the attention of other tech firms and shine light on the benefits of being in a vibrant downtown. Thanks to both companies for investing in our downtown!

  14. RenPark John , Thanks for your comment & I agree with you . Sure I would love to see our new projects taller , but I am still very excited about the new growth in our downtown .
    Dwight Nipper

  15. Any word on whether the retail spaces will actually be developed as retail spaces from the beginning, and whether the developer will be actively looking for tenants? Or will they basically be built with knock-out panels facing the street that could possibly be built out as retail at some indeterminate date in the future.

  16. ^don’t think they are actually going to be retail spaces. James was saying we NEED a new city ordinance that requires the ground floor of new parking garages to be at least 50% retail. However, if I am wrong, and they ARE planning on adding retail to the Citrix parking deck, someone please confirm that!!

  17. Awesome news, Leo- at least the parking deck will be used for SOMETHING other than parking.

  18. I passed right by there today. The deck didn’t look that bad! Maybe they can use the old art work that was on the L building. I was joking when I first thought about this. But it might not be the worst idea in the world. A local artist could really make that place look a lot better. Maybe even something we all could be proud of. Just a thought.

  19. It would be nice if it were a planted deck with trailing plants potted along the cased openings on each level of it. Even if there were awnings/features of some sort at each opening, there would be a softening of the abrupt nature of the deck. It used to be that DT deck design was more thoughtful and architectural.

  20. Something like the deck in Durham would be cool. I think most people could live with that. Depending what they put up there. It could be something worth seeing if done right.

  21. The site plans indicated “Future Retail” – Leo, when you mentioned 14ksf of retail, have you got confirmation that the space will be available for lease to tenants at the same time that the building is handed over to Citrix?

    To me, the term “Future Retail” meant that they would leave the space vacant and possibly bricked up for eventual conversion to retail, if/when the market demanded it. (Like the spaces along Wilmington Street in the deck next to Red Hat, or the spaces along West Street in Quorum Center.)

    14ksf is actually quite a lot of space.

  22. Hmmm. Orulz, you bring up a good point.

    I pulled up the site plan and searched for ‘retail’ and I see these notes, truncated here for brevity. (See SP-018-13)

    Page 8
    Phasing: “……The deck may contain an additional 224 optional spaces either at the time of construction or with a later phase. The future retail space within the deck will be given a shop-front appearance along the street edges while being used for parking. The deck is being constructed in such a way that in the future, it is possible to construct a building on top of it……”

    Page 12
    Appearance Commission: “Over the course of the design and permitting of phase one of the project, the design team refined and strengthened the Morgan and West Corner to activate and provide a more iconic feature above the retail entrance. Due to grade separation and ADA access issues the design team has chosen to add and strengthen the architectural elements as a skyline element….”

    Page 13
    Appearance Commission: (in response to the shielding of cars in the deck) “…..The current design is calculated to provide the minimum openness as required by the North Carolina Building code for natural ventilation pruposes. We are considering this primarily at the areas where the retail shops would be located…..”

    Those are the most relevant mentions of it. I’m not sure if that answers your question but I’ll ask around.

  23. Ah, that’s even worse – it will be parking at first, to be potentially converted into retail about two years after never.


    At least the future retail spaces in the deck on Wilmington are just empty/unused, so no parking would be lost if they were converted. In this case, as with Quorum, chances are the deck owners will never see it as lucrative enough to do the conversion, so we are stuck with ground level parking forever. The only chance is if a building is ever built on top of the deck, which seldom happens. the Alexander Square parking deck on Fayetteville Street was built to allow a building on top and we can see clearly that this has never happened, in spite of the A+ location.

    Charter Square is an unusual case since all the parking is underground and the buildings on top will still have a full ground floor.

    The only place in NC that I can think of where a building was constructed on top of an existing parking deck is Charlotte, where “The Park” was mostly constructed, went bankrupt, and sat as a shell for a few years, then got snatched up by a developer for pennies on the dollar and finally got converted to a Hyatt Place/Condos building with a hideous monstrosity of a design.

  24. Ok, while I’m all for jobs being added is it just me or am I just looking at all the negatives. One there is a huge parking deck at the corner of prime real estate in downtown. It doesn’t even to appear to include retail at the bottom portion but it’s just a big piece of dead space. Two, while the idea is to limit parking there are still plenty of spaces available for each shift. Based on the numbers about 70 of the 500 people are off. So each shift you are looking about about 140ish employees there per shift which leaves plenty of parking for employees. While CAT has gotten much better providing service most of the routes that provide decent 15 minute service don’t go anywhere near that location and most people just don’t want to wait 30 minutes during rush hour for a bus. To me not smart urban growth. Along with the jobs provide no deck, attach a mixed use apartment/condo and limit parking. That’s dense development, creating 24 hour life, and making people more pedestrian oriented and transit friendly.

  25. I’m pleased that there is the future option of providing ground floor retail and that the deck is prepared for a building on top of the deck. I imagine that the blandness of the upper floors is because of the possibility for another tenant/owner. All in all, this is not a lost corner and we can keep pushing for something more substantial here.

  26. Horrendous decision by the Planning Commission. Terrible rules that caused this 20th-century auto-reliant out-of-date car-storage facility to be required in a supposedly transit-friendly location and that the developer didn’t even want to put in.

    If parking is so valuable, just charge market rates for the on-street spaces and we’ll quickly see the demand re-adjust itself.

    This was the worst possible move for the site.

  27. reasonable mass transit options are at least a decade away for DTR. i don’t think citrix is quite big enough to change the entire Triangle system because they retrofitted a warehouse. just be happy there’s something being built that improves the abandoned building and brings more people downtown. both are good things.

  28. The only thing that concerns me is the loss of identity due to structures like parking decks. I see the necessity, but either incorporate decks into high-rises or place them underground. If we absolutely, positively can’t avoid parking decks, then make sure they don’t overwhelm their surrounding buildings, especially the ones that won’t be redeveloped/renovated for another 20-30 years

    Also, I agree with Jeff’s last comment about mass transit. We can resume this conversation in about 10 years. Hopefully, by then, we’ll have the critical mass (employees and residents) which will justify a boost in public transit options; these options will be successful and easier to fund.

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