Parking lots are traditionally thought of as a place to park cars. But not at Home Depot. In Calgary, Canada, the retail giant apparently struck a deal with Habitat for Humanity to build 13 homes in the store’s parking lot. Neighbors objected to the plan, and city officials accused them of being anti-low-income. One Alderman in Calgary told the Calgary Sun, “I must say, that really does sadden me.” The city received letters from area residents concerned about crime and plunging property values, if the condominiums were built on a small parcel of land which Home Depot reserved for Habitat. But residents said they didn’t believe the small piece of land, facing into the community, provided enough room for decent homes. Habitat for Humanity said the parking lot was ideal for their needs.
The fundamental question here is: why was Home Depot allowed to pave over such a large parking area that could accommodate 13 condominiums? Developers should be given approval for parking lots that meet the minimum parking size needed — and no more. What often happens, is that developers come in with plans for a huge parking lot, knowing that they will come back later with “outlots” to fill with banks, restaurants, and second phase development. In this way, they never show the full impact of build out on the site, but break their plans into smaller portions. In this case, city officials clearly gave Home Depot more space than they needed, and the idea of building condos hard by a Home Depot, is a pretty pathetic place to put low-income families. I guess the kids will get to play among the cars in Home Depot’s lots. This seems like a hair-brained plan, and no wonder neighbors took offense. Maybe that’s where Calgary officials think poor people belong, in someone’s parking lot. In this case, the parking lot size should never have been approved in the first place. And where do you suppose Habitat for Humanity will buy most of its building materials? Not a bad deal for Home Depot, whose gift of land gives right back to them.