Main Street Brackets: Shared Parking in Patchogue — Q&A with Architect Michael Piper


Michael Piper, co-founder of dub Studios, designed the Main Street Brackets proposal for the ParkingPLUS Design Challenge. Michael and the dub Studios team propose both a modestly sized new parking deck—designed to be airy, open, and easy to access—and a cutting-edge way-finding system of automated signage, lighting, and landscape improvements, which would promote better usage of the current supply of scattered surface parking lots in the Village of Patchogue. We spoke about his design in December 2013.

Communities often think they need to build more parking to make their downtowns successful. What’s your take on this? Are they right or wrong?

Michael Piper: We believe that before building new parking, a community would do well to optimize the parking that they already have through parking management and shared parking systems. For example, Patchogue has taken the first steps in this process by thoroughly analyzing their existing parking, providing new signage, and metering their parking spaces.

Visitors arriving in downtown Patchogue for the first time often don’t realize how much parking is actually available, tucked behind buildings on Main Street and also in lots on adjacent streets. How would your design clue them in to all those available spaces?

Piper: Our design provides new signage and way-finding that directs people to parking lots that are hard to find. We also create new pathways that link the parking lots to Main Street. When driving down Main Street, each pathway crossing would cue a motorist to the parking lot that is linked to that path.


New way-finding signage directs people to parking lots that are hard to find. Image courtesy of dub Studios

Successful municipal parking programs like SFpark in San Francisco use technology to make parking easier and faster. How does your proposal make use of technology to promote smarter parking in a downtown setting?

Piper: We propose to use a parking management system that monitors parking availability and then relays that information to both an automated signage system and also to a smart phone app such as Streetline’s Parker™ app. Both the app and the signage would direct motorists to lots that have available parking.


An automated system would link Patchogue’s new parking meter system with signage updating information about available parking in real-time. Image courtesy of dub Studios

People will walk a quarter mile to get from the mall parking lot to a shop at the mall, without blinking an eye, yet they feel like they need to park directly in front of a downtown store they’re patronizing. How does your design make the experience of walking from a parking lot to Main Street more enjoyable?

Piper: Patchogue’s municipal parking lots are located behind Main Street and this makes it feel like you are entering Main Street from the back door. We designed pathways and landscapes that help make the parking lots feel like a front [entry].

Your design would extend the activities of Main Street into parking lots. For Patchogue, which is a community centered on the arts, this translates into gallery space in lots. How do you envision applying this idea in other communities, which have a different character?

Piper: Each community has a particular character. We would spend time learning about what that character is and then make proposals for how to elaborate on those unique qualities. Patchogue’s identity is connected to the arts; however, other communities relate more to their coastline, or to specific unique retail stores. These qualities could be translated into designs for new downtown landscapes.

You propose for local stakeholders and property owners to be invested in making your design reality. Tell me more about the grass-roots component of your design.

Piper: The grass-roots component of the proposal works alongside strong municipal leadership. We propose that the Village provide initial investment into pathways and signage that would act as a framework for stakeholder engagement. Each property owner that fronts a parking lot could then add to and customize these pathways and signage with landscapes that relate specifically to them. This would give property owners a say in the design of their lots, and help the Village with the financing of potential improvements.


Adjacent stakeholders customize the design of the “brackets” with improvements specific to them. In this example, Artspace could add outdoor gallery space to the design. Image courtesy of dub Studios

What inspired you in working on this design?

We are inspired by people transforming parking lots into alternative uses, such as tailgating, or impromptu basketball. These activities show how parking can be a pleasurable part of a community, rather than just a utility.


Image courtesy of underdutchskies/Flickr under Creative Commons License

More about Main Street Brackets

See an overview of the design.

Find out more about the Design Proposal.

Watch a video of Michael Piper unveiling the design.

More about ParkingPLUS

Find out about the potential economic benefits of the ParkingPLUS designs.

Read about how to finance parking garages, and why it pays to build them in downtown and train station areas.

Learn more about the ParkingPLUS design challenge.