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Underground parking repurposing

By 2040, many central subterranean car parks will have been converted into last mile logistics hubs

Underground parking repurposing

As we have written elsewhere, competition for land within cities has been fierce. The erosion of industrial and logistics land has been a big consequence of this, with London losing more than 40% of its industrial units that comprise less than 100,000 sq. ft. to other uses (Figure 1).

The situation has already started to change due to the growth in last-mile logistics, which is demanding more localised hubs to service same-day deliveries to inhabitants of the big cities. Accommodating these urban fulfilment centres within increasingly crowded metropolises will be a huge challenge in the next two decades.

Figure 1: Industrial land under 100,000 sq ft lost between 2009 and 2017

Source: CBRE and PMA, 2018

One option to address the lack of available land could be utilising city centre underground car parks. A rise in environmental concerns, congestion charging, better public transport and car sharing or autonomous vehicles that can pick people up from the cities centres, all suggest that the existing network of city centre car parks might be too big. This could present an opportunity for urban logistics hubs to find well-located spaces to occupy and create micro-depots.

Paris has already some underground facilities converted to last mile logistics consolidation centres, with the packages sent to final destinations via electric vans, reducing mileage and emissions. We expect this option could well be introduced in the UK’s largest cities in the future.

Underground logistics hubs could be combined with other initiatives, like the KoMoDo project in Berlin, where a group of larger parcel operators have joined efforts to create a pilot central point in the city where their larger vehicles place their parcels. Cargo bikes then arrive for loading and proceed with the last mile delivery. Obviously, environmentally-friendly cargo bikes can only afford to complete the last stage of a logistics operation, and they need a consolidation point inside the cities to do so, as big logistics sites are usually out of town. This is where underground car parks might be the solution. We think we’ll see extensive new use of these spaces by 2040.

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