Park(ing) Day comes but once a year, and this year it seems to be bigger and better organized than ever. You can even post to a website that will map each such intervention around the world
. Pretty cool. It's a great idea - our cities have been overrun by cars and parking, so let's reclaim some of that space for the humans as ThirdPlace - and has gained real traction. At the time of this post, here in Philadelphia, there are already over forty participants officially signed up. That makes for a great visual impact for helping people visualize a different future. But allow me to present a possible next frontier.
|Park(ing) Day example from StreetsBlog|
Typically, Park(ing) Day focuses on converting on-street spaces to park spaces. In Philly, this has even inspired the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities to develop a Parklet Program
, going beyond Park(ing) day, which helps businesses or neighborhood groups do such conversions on a more permanent basis.
|Philly Parklet in Chinatown (from MOTU)|
Focusing on better uses for on-street parking works really great in densely built-up downtowns or neighborhoods, where you begin to question if on-street parking is really still the best use of the space. I find that it works especially well as a way of providing outdoor dining for restaurants (providing a sense of already half-being in the restaurant when you're walking down the sidewalk without encroaching much on the sidewalk and inspiring the killjoy ire of Stu Bykofsky
|From Data Driven Detroit|
But what about cities, towns, and neighborhoods in which on-street parking might not yet represent the worst use of land because that superlative is still held by off-street surface parking lots? This now famous map of Detroit
and research by Norman Garrick and Chris McCahill
suggest that there are are plenty of places in which the use of buildable lots for parking is worse for the urban environment than on-street parking.
Parking can be important, especially for retail, so maybe a prudent approach, in places that aren't fully built out, would be to focus Park(ing) day activity, not just on on-street spaces, but strategically problematic surface parking lots.
Find the lot that you really think should be a building, rent the corner or edge spaces for the day, and set up a lemonade stand (even if you give it away for free in order to avoid the ire of the relevant city department) or something as a means of simulating the commerce that should be taking place there and helping others visualize it.
In Portland (Oregon, this time
, though it pains me to admit), the foodcart vendors that we all know and love are begining to more permanently occupy edge spaces of parking lots and other unbuilt properties. This demonstrates an incremental approach to development and improvement of the public realm that doesn't depend on big, overnight change, which can be so hard to come by.
So... the pictures below show opposite corners of the same block... which do you prefer? Until the owner decides to build or sell, how can this be improved? In downtowns and neighborhoods that aren't fully built out, I think these are the questions needing to be asked when thinking about Park(ing) Day now and in years to come.