From bars to pod homes: how underused car parks are being transformed

Shopper numbers in city centres are falling, leaving car parks empty – and councils are finding innovative ways to repurpose the space

The Abbey Walk multistorey car park in Grimsby is a stark concrete layer cake with abstract reliefs sculpted by artist Harold Gosney on its flank and an elegant spiral access ramp. But despite its appearance, North East Lincolnshire council believe that Abbey Walk’s reputation for attracting anti-social behaviour puts off customers and is seeking £1.54m investment for a refurbishment programme. When I visited on a Saturday, there were surprisingly few vehicles inside. A group of young teenagers chased each other through the levels, hopping on the lifts, screams of mock fear echoing off the concrete. It felt like I was in an adventure playground as much as a car park, a space where imaginations could run wild.

As shopper numbers fall in city centres as more of us shop online or visit out-of-town retail parks, many multistoreys like Abbey Walk are underused. A new idea is taking hold: doing something productive with them.

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