Have you been looking for a fun, easy, low-cost placemaking project to do in your community? Then mark September 16, 17, and 18, 2022 on your calendar. Those three days are collectively known as Park(ing) Day—the weekend when people around the world turn street parking spaces into tiny parks, gathering spots, and art installations.
Created by John Bela, Matthew Passmore, Blaine Merker and Teresa Aguilera of Rebar Art and Design Studio (Rebar), the first Park(ing) Day was kicked off in San Francisco in 2005. The group was interested in activating niche spaces in the city, which was (and is!) famous for its sky-high real estate prices. They realized that a parking space was actually quite a cheap piece of San Francisco real estate at then-current curbside meter rates—and that the San Francisco parking code did not prohibit placing something other than a car in a parking space. After calculating that somewhere between 20% to 30% of the city’s land area was streets and that about 70% of that (minus sidewalks) was dedicated to storing private vehicles, they decided to brainstorm ways to reclaim some of this precious urban real estate for human use—even if only temporarily.
Ideas they bandied around included outdoor office space, an urban forest, and a cabaret before they settled on creating an urban park placed in the confines of a single 8’ by 20’ parking space—a concept now known as a parklet.
So they rolled out a patch of living grass, a bench, and a potted plant on First and Mission Streets in San Francisco. Within minutes, the tiny park attracted visitors. The installation lasted two hours—the time allotted for one session on a parking meter.
When their time was up, they packed up the parklet and carted it away.
The Original Park(ing) Day Installation in San Francisco
After posting about the installation online, the Rebar folks were inundated with requests for information from people around the globe who loved the idea and wanted to create projects of their own. The following year, Rebar partnered with the nonprofit Trust for Public Land to officially launch Park(ing) Day as an annual event. Thousands of people in 35 countries worldwide have now participated in Park(ing) Day over the last 15 years.
REALTOR® associations that are interested in creating their own Park(ing) Day projects are eligible to apply for a Level 1 Placemaking Grant for a temporary parklet. In 2019, the Idaho REALTORS® participated in Park(ing) Day in Boise, Idaho, partnering with AARP, the American Heart Association, the City of Boise and Idaho Smart Growth to build a temporary parklet near City Hall. The purpose was to bring the neighborhood together and help remind drivers to share the streets with pedestrians and cyclists. “Streets are for people too,” said Cynthia Gibson, executive director of Idaho Walk Bike Alliance at the event. “We hope to call attention to the way our streets are improved when we share them and highlight the need for more urban open spaces.”
Read more about the Idaho REALTORS® project.
And here are some Park(ing) Day installations from around the world to help inspire some ideas:
Public Park(ing) Day picnic spot in France
Interactive artist installations on Park(ing) Day in Columbia, South Carolina
A portable Park(ing) Day parklet in Germany
In addition, read about the months’ long parklet installation created by the Long Island Board of REALTORS® with help of an NAR Placemaking Grant.
So, if you’re ready to start brainstorming your own Park(ing) Day project, here are some steps to getting started:
- Contact your local DOT to see if they participate in Park(ing) Day. For example, Washington, DC issues event guidelines and information on the District’s PARK(ing) Day.
- Put together a team to plan, design, install and staff your temporary parklet.
- Popular elements include groundcover, seating, games, barriers and shade.
- Find a metered parking space for your temporary parklet. Again, check with the local DOT as some areas may be off limits.
- Get the word out on social media so that people in your community come and visit your parklet on Park(ing) Day.
- On Park(ing) Day, take lots of pictures and video, and be ready to talk to people who stop by to visit your parklet. Be prepared to explain the goal of Park(ing) Day.
- Check out Rebar’s handy “How-To” manual.
Cars sit idle 95% of the time according to data compiled by urban planners. Let’s think about new, creative ways to use urban space devoted to cars for the benefit of the whole community. Join in the worldwide celebration of people and parklets on Park(ing) Day!