GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Imagine a parking garage doubling as a concert venue, a fairground, or a skating rink.
As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, some of the best and brightest architects unveiled their designs Thursday from the parking lot of the future.
While cars are loaded with ever-improving amenities every passing model year, where we park those cars has not changed much in decades.
"Parking is thought of almost apologetically," said Roger Sherman of Architecture + Urban Design. "We try to cover it up, we try to screen it, we try to make it look like it's not there."
"If you have parking lots for as far as the eye can see, it's not a very beautiful place," said Tim Love of Utile Inc. Architecture + Planning.
The think tank Long Island Index has decided it is time to rethink the parking lot. The think tank challenged top architects to design parking lots of the future to free up space, with the ParkingPLUS Design Challenge.
"If Long Island wants to rethink our downtowns, the place to find the space to do that rebuilding is in our surface parking lots," said Ann Golob of Long Island Index.
The results included a design for Rockville Centre, featuring a tiered garage with a ground-floor arcade where festivals and food markets could be held when commuters are not parking there.
"So you recapture some of the space and make it part of the kind of civic life of the village," Love said.
A design for Westbury features terraced train parking mixed with apartments, with rooftop courtyards and gardens.
"They're occupiable, green, in a way, kind of landscapes," said Marc Tsurumaki of LTL Architects.
"People are starting to think outside that box on how to use that space better," added Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro.
And in a design for Ronkonkoma, a bubble-enclosed commuter garage doubles as a family entertainment center.
"Go-carting, mini-golf, triathlons, a rink for hockey and roller hockey" are part of the design, Sherman said.
Developer Bruce Ratner viewed all the designs as he argued that parking lots are hogging space that is needed to create jobs.
"It is very important to rethink suburban parking lots, but particularly important to rethink those that are near rail hubs, because we want to use more rail -- whether it be in the city of New York, or whether it be in the island, or whether – all our suburbs," said Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies.
The villages for which the parking structures were designed are not obligated to build them. But their mayors said they will take the designs to their communities to see if there is interest and funding for the projects.
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