Motorized Towers May Give Parking Crunch A Lift

Tower Parking Solutions, Inc. a Florida based company can help solve parking problems by parking anywhere from 10 to 36 cars in the space of two!


ST. PETE BEACH - Skip McElvery and Annette Kapfer certainly haven't been thinking outside the box. The two entrepreneurs, trying to find an efficient and cost-effective solution to the all-to-real problem of too many cars and too few parking spots in urban areas, have been thinking inside the box - specifically, a box that takes up only 600 square feet of space on the ground but holds up to 36 cars.

The St. Pete Beach neighbors have teamed up with two other investors in West Palm Beach to design, sell and build mechanized parking decks. Each parking tower would act as a kind of enclosed Ferris wheel for cars: Drivers park their cars at ground level, but the empty cars are stored off the ground until needed.

Tower Parking Solutions got its start about a year ago, focusing first on engineering and design work. The company began its marketing push just a few weeks ago. McElvery said he hasn't made a sale but he's talking with interested clients in several cities.

"We're just inches away from getting our first contract in place," he said. "I'm sure people will get a lot more comfortable when they know they're not the first one."

A shortage of parking spaces in urban areas has many people searching for creative solutions, said Robert Dunphy, senior resident fellow for transportation and infrastructure at the Urban Land Institute in Washington.

In many cities, land is too valuable to justify a surface parking lot, and a new multistory parking deck can cost $10,000 to $15,000 per space.

The cost per space is about $15,000 for a Tower Parking Solutions structure.

"There's the expense issue, and there's the challenge of actually fitting it [the parking deck] in," Dunphy said.

Finding solutions to parking problems will require "some combination of technology and finance and innovative leadership," he said.

Mechanized parking towers first appeared in space-starved Tokyo more than 30 years ago, and a handful of the towers made their way to the United States. McElvery and Kapfer said few of the original U.S. parking towers are still in use. One is operating in a Honolulu office building, car manufacturers use towers in the Detroit area for storage, and a tower in Miami was converted into a storage facility.
McElvery said his firm has improved greatly upon the original parking towers' designs. The towers meet Florida's hurricane building codes, California's earthquake building codes and Minnesota's snow load specifications.

Towers can accommodate 12 to 36 cars, and stand 48 to 144 feet tall. Kapfer said the company can customize each tower's facade to hide the machinery and complement the neighboring buildings. One potential buyer, an auto dealership in Phoenix, is considering an all-glass enclosure for his tower so that it can serve as a rotating showcase next to the local interstate highway.

A manually operated hydraulic system will let people retrieve cars if the power goes out. Owners can also install backup generators, he said.

Kapfer, a marketing industry veteran, said part of Tower Parking Solutions' challenge is to show customers and users how the equipment works and that it's not difficult to use.

"I think people are very, very interested, and they see the need," she said.

McElvery and Kapfer said some clients are looking for ways to provide more parking in land-starved areas. Others are car park owners that want to boost revenue by increasing the number of cars that can fit on their property.

Tower Parking Solutions is owned by McElvery, Kapfer and the two West Palm Beach partners, Aaron Hinesley and Douglas Dodd. The four partners have spent about $100,000 to launch the company, and they have two employees - a pair of project managers, both stationed on the east coast of Florida. The partners and employees work out of their homes, but McElvery said he envisions opening an office in Pinellas County - nothing too ornate because "who needs a fancy corner office?" he says - and adding employees as the company grows.

McElvery said he would like to see Tower Parking Solutions grow gradually.

"We don't want to get so inundated with work that we can't in a timely manner build a confident infrastructure of people," he said.

Tower Parking Solutions is proposing a novel way to pack a lot of cars into a little footprint. The company's towers, part Ferris wheel and part elevator, store cars off the ground until they are needed. A tower can hold 12 to 36 cars.

(1) The driver parks the car on the ground level and retrieves a claim ticket from an automated terminal.

(2) the pan carrying the car is lifted, and an empty pan is lowered to the ground level, waiting for the next person who needs a parking space.

(3) When the driver returns, he or she inserts a claim ticket (and payment if necessary) into the terminal. The car is lowered to ground level.

Memo:Reporter Dave Simanoff can be reached at (813) 259-7762.Copyright 2003 The Tribune Co.
Record Number: 073003076

For more information please contact:

Annette Kapfer
Tower Parking Solutions, Inc.
P.O. Box 66806
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
Phone: 727 360 -8571
Fax: 727 360-3096
Tower Parking Solutions, Inc.
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