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5 Ways CRE Owners Can Use Parking Lots to Make Money Now

Aug 06, 2020 by Marc Rapport

The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive disruption to retail businesses across the country this year, leaving shuttered stores and vacant parking spaces. Commercial real estate owners and managers willing to be a bit creative and agile can use that space, however, in ways that can generate some income and interest from retail businesses, office tenants, and just the folks who live around them.

Parking lots provide a natural setting for social distancing. Be prepared to follow local rules about masks and other protections, of course, and make sure to check with local authorities about any zoning rules to be followed or permits to be acquired.

Below are a few ideas.

Show drive-in movies

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) just made headlines by announcing its partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival to use parking lots at 160 locations from mid-August through Oct. 21 to screen films. These are at open Walmart stores, and the company is going big, showing family-friendly flicks from major studios and lining up major names to appear on screen and even in person at some of the locations. Here's more about all that.

Local property managers and owners can explore how to do it on their own by contacting the operators of their local theaters and by checking out "portable" movie specialists like this. Another good place to start exploring might be with the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.

Rent your space for parking

Look at what you have and think about who else might need some spaces enough to pay you for it. Then offer it to them. Are your spaces in an area where office parking is at a premium? What if you have 10 spaces you can rent at $50 each a month? That's an easy $500 a month you otherwise wouldn't be bringing in. It's not hard to envision buying some window stickers or just laminated passes that can sit on the dash.

Rent your space for storage

What about offering the space for boat and RV parking/storage or even putting in portable storage pods? Here's a link to the National Portable Storage Association to start your exploration around that idea.

Host food fairs and carnivals

Many state and county fairs and festivals of all kinds have been canceled. That means those vendors need a place to sell their fried candy bars, elephant ears, and other delicacies. They're looking for solutions, too, and they're used to setting up in parking lots. Here's a link to carnival and amusement industry directories.

You could also work with local organizations to provide space for health fairs and other community gatherings, although that would seem limiting as far as income. It would bring folks into your parking lot, though, and close to the businesses that are open there while generating goodwill.

Host a food truck rodeo

Food trucks are now a thing, not a fad. Consider having a food truck rodeo, lining up as many as would comfortably fit your space and local authorities would permit at this time. Here's a link to a site that specializes in them.

Temporary fixes in unpredictable times

These temporary fixes won't replace the business from tenants who hopefully will be soon thriving again and need that parking for customers and employees, but they can help create some cool cash over the coming weeks and months.

Be realistic about how much income your parking lot can generate and allocate your time and resources accordingly, and the effort could well be worth it now and going forward into who knows what lies ahead.

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Marc Rapport has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.