Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Get Ready for the 2021 Park(ing) Day

Although PARK(ing) Day isn’t until September, specifically the third Friday in September, now is the perfect time to start planning.    So first, what is PARK(ing) Day? PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide one-day event where citizens convert metered parking spaces into public parks and open spaces, sometimes referred to as parklets.  The day is intended to encourage creative placemaking, particularly in places where access to parks is limited, as well as raise awareness about the importance of walkable, livable, and healthy communities.

The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.

The project that started all of this was only in place for two hours – the time allotted on the parking meter.  A group of urban design collaborators found a parking space in a particularly gray part of downtown San Francisco, and converted it into a mini park by rolling out grass, setting up a bench, and bringing in a potted tree.

Within minutes, a man sat down on the bench, took off his shoes, and began to eat lunch. Another person joined soon after, and the two began having a conversation.  The group of urban collaborators knew they were on to something: “We created an opportunity for social interaction that wasn’t there before.”

When the meter expired, the organizers rolled up the sod, packed away the bench and the tree, cleaned up, and left.  But that two-hour temporary park left an impression and led to a movement.

After people found out about the project, the project organizers received multiple requests to create similar projects in other cities.  And what followed was the idea to empower people to create their own temporary parklets.  And thus “PARK(ing) Day” was born.

Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day participants have created thousands of temporary green, open and social spaces. They have reclaimed streets in diverse and unique ways by converting concrete into croquet greens, community health clinics, libraries, lemonade stands and bike workshops.

In 2006, the first PARK(ing) Day was celebrated with 47 “parks” in 13 cities across three countries. The event grew rapidly, expanding to more than 200 parks in 2007 and part of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008. By 2011 PARK(ing) Day included almost 1,000 parks in 35 countries.

In some cities, Park(ing) Day is used to find out how a parklet would go over in their community. Park(ing) Day helped inspire San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, its parklets initiative. The program has been a massive success, creating dozens of new public spaces across the city. And other cities across the globe, from Ames, Iowa, to Accra, Ghana, have since deployed parklets of their own.

Read about some examples of permanent parklets:

So, if you’re game, here are some steps to get started:

  • Contact your local DOT to see if they participate in Park(ing) Day. For example, Washington, DC issues event guidelines and information the District’s PARK(ing) Day.
  • Put together a team to plan, design, install and man 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 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, but also be in the moment and talk to people who visit your parklet. Be prepared to explain the goal of Park(ing) Day.

You can find more details in Rebar’s Park(ing) Day Manual.

If you’re wondering what others have done in the past on PARK(ing) Day, here are some examples.

Your Association can apply for NAR’s Placemaking Grant  to help construct a temporary parklet. For example, the Idaho REALTORS® participated in the 2019 National Park(ing) Day in Boise, Idaho. They partnered with AARP, American Heart Association, 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 everyone to slow down and use caution. See additional details for photos and a video of other parklet projects.

Before and after images of a temporary parklet in the city of Boise, ID

Photos courtesy Idaho REALTORS®

So, have you identified the parking space for your PARK(ing) Day project? If not, what are you waiting for.


Community Outreach Programs

Housing Opportunity Grant
Housing Opportunity Grants support state and local REALTOR® Associations’ affordable housing activities. The goal of the program is to position REALTORS® as leaders in improving their communities by creating affordable housing

Smart Growth Grant
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.

Planned diversity initiatives makes good business sense. REALTOR® Associations with well-planned diversity programs create a stronger sense of community, particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born and minority residents who are moving up the socioeconomic ladder and are buying homes.

NAR Placemaking Resources

Placemaking Guide: A Guide to Transform a Public Space into a Community Place
REALTORS® and state and local association staff can learn the details of Placemaking, the kinds of projects placemaking entails, how to organize them, and where to go for assistance and resources.

Placemaking Webinar Series
Our Placemaking Webinar Series will provide more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® were involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Placemaking Grant
The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces, like pocket parks, trails & gardens, in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less  than $200,000.

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