Friday September 21st is Park(ing) Day! Those of us on the East Coast may not yet be familiar with this concept, but hopefully it will become more common place in the years to come.
Park(ing) Day is an event where metered city parking spots are transformed, for the day, into mini urban parks. It is an event that calls attention to the need for green space in the urban environment, and illustrates that even very small spaces can offer big benefits to the look, feel and usability of an urban street.
The concept of Park(ing) Day is grounded in a movement started in San Francisco to reclaim parking spaces for public use. The first “parklet” was created by the design studio, Rebar, in 2005. This first installation lasted the 2 hour limit of the parking meter, but it started a conversation about urban green space that has reached a national, and international audience.
The Pavement to Parks program in San Francisco http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/index.htm, now supports the proliferation of these public spaces. Around 30 different parklets around the city are semi-permanent, public, outdoor spaces.
|fabric 8 parklet|
I took a mini tour of San Francisco’s parklets last winter with some friends and was inspired by the creativity and diversity of these spaces. This parklet, outside of fabric 8, an art gallery and boutique, included bean bag chairs, planters, a mini hillside and lighthouse. http://fabric8.com/parklet/ This particular parklet was commissioned as a year long installation. The parklet itself is now on sale, and fabric 8 is taking ideas for their next installation.
|Noe Valley parklet|
This parklet, in Noe Valley, is located on a street full of shops and cafes. It includes tall steel planters and benches which define the space (2 parking spots in dimension), and offers bright red tables and chairs. Even on a chilly day, this parklet was full of people eating, reading, waiting for friends, and just relaxing.
|Four Barrel Coffee parklet on Valencia Street|
The last parklet we visited on our mini tour was in front of Four Barrel Coffee on Valencia Street. Bar height counters and stools offered a place to sit and watch the streetscape, whether or not you were enjoying a coffee from the shop (these are public spaces, so no purchase is necessary to sit in the parklet).
The parklet concept has been very successful in San Francisco, where outdoor seating is possible year round. Cities including Chicago, New York, and Boston are all experimenting with the parklet concpet, modified for three season use (the spaces would be dismantled in the winter).
Plans are underway and hopefully Boston will boast its first parklets by next summer. Until then, keep your eyes open on Park(ing) Day (September 21st) and you may see a one day demonstration of the value of urban green space.
(Thanks to my friends Heather and Kira for modeling these great spaces!)