Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Planning, architecture and landscape architecture firms can show their chops with Parking Day: Baltimore edition courtesy of Floura Teeter

Port-a-park: A temporary park was set up in a parking space on Mission Street by Rebar, an art collective.
Image from the first Park(ing) Day.   The group Rebar declared Sept. 21 "Park(ing) Day" and installed this temporary park in a parking space on Mission St. in downtown San Francisco, CA.  The group moved the park to several different parking spaces throughout the day.   Port-a-park: A temporary park was set up in a parking space on Mission Street by Rebar, an art collective. The park was moved several times that day. San Francisco Chronicle photo by Laura Morton.

DC, being a stodgy place, just hasn't gotten it together in terms of a focused effort on  Park(ing) Day, the guerrilla urbanism venture created by the Rebar Group of San Francisco, where on the third Friday of September, people/groups are encouraged to do temporary actions, taking over parking spaces, and demonstrating fun alternative uses of the space.  John King of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the very first Park(ing) Day back in 2006 (""Drop a coin in the meter and enjoy the park"").

There are some efforts in DC.  Last year, Casey Trees participated.  But for the most part, we haven't managed to pull off an event of significance.  The national website for Park(ing) Day is the best place to go to find out about efforts in your community.

Probably, the City of San Francisco's parklets program was a kind of official response to the idea ("SF parklets a homegrown effort" from the San Francisco Chronicle).  Who says that civic action doesn't spark organizational change.
Left:  Ayers Saint Gross Inc.
Location: Thames St and South Broadway St
Parking Spot Theme: Stormwater Education Park.  (2010)

Baltimore is a different animal entirely from DC, an illustration of my line that weak real estate market cities often have a desperate willingness to experiment because they have no other choice.

There the Maryland chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architecture has gotten firms to initiate Park(ing) Day activities in various parts of the city.  Other civic groups, such as the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, participate as well.  See this last year blog entry from the Baltimore Sun, "Park(ing) Day" turns pavement into mini-parks."

Right:  Floura Teeter Landscape Architects
Location: 306 West Franklin St, Baltimore, MD - 3 metered spaces
Parking Spot Theme: FTLA staffers will transform three normal blacktop metered parking spaces into a temporary urban oasis with grass, trees and plants. FTLA's installation is open to the public and will offer snacks and lawn games in addition to ongoing tours of a simulated living roof.  (2010)

Floura Teeter, one of the landscape architecture firms that has done Park(ing) Day installations for the last three years, sends us notice that they intend to participate this year as well.  From email:

2012 marks FTLA’s fourth consecutive PARK(ing) Day installation. This year’s installation will have a bike safety theme and feature a bike rack as well as information on the new Baltimore City Bike Map and bicycle safety provided by the Baltimore Department of Transportation. For an added fun element, visitors will be able to purchase and make their own fresh smoothies courtesy of bike-powered blenders rented from Wheely Good Smoothies, a local farmer’s market favorite. All proceeds generated from the smoothies will be donated to a charity that is to be determined.
This year’s installation will be located in front of FTLA’s new offices in the renovated Park Plaza building at 800 N. Charles Street. According to FTLA partner Joan Floura, the new location is more visible and should attract even more visitors to what has traditionally been a well-attended event for the firm. Staff, clients, colleagues, friends and neighbors can enjoy the amenities of the temporary bicycle park from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
“Our team of landscape architects and designers is looking forward to raising awareness about the value of public open space and the importance of bike safety and awareness in our new neighborhood,” says Floura.  

(Ironically, for my business, BicyclePASS, while we can't participate this year, we have big plans for what we thought was a unique idea, focusing on bike parking as a Park(ing) Day riff.  Next year, we'll do it, hopefully in DC and Baltimore.  And it is different from the Floura Teeter idea, but still, we'll have to check out their installation next month!)

Chicago has just introduced a parklet program, with parks in Lakeview and Andersonville. (Something that DC didn't do when Gabe Klein, now the Cmomissioner of Transportation in Chicago, was director of the transportation department.  He clearly adapted the idea from San Francisco.  Los Angeles is now doing parklets as well.)

The project in the Andersonville commercial district was first initiated by a Park(ing) Day like activity the year before--another example of leveraging "guerrilla" projects.  See "A little less parking, a few more parklets: City hopes new 'people spots' on streets will increase foot traffic" from the Chicago Tribune. The story also has a nice video on the Andersonville parklet.

 Image: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune / August 2, 2012.  Deb Sitron does some work at the parklet on Lincoln Avenue in the Lakeview neighborhood.

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