Parking Spaces...or Parks?

Sep 21, 2012

Don't be surprised Friday if you see some metered parking spots in Pittsburgh that  are occupied not by cars but "public spaces" in an effort to spark thoughts about urban landscape and land use. 

PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh is a one-day event aimed to get Pittsburghers thinking about the benefits of recreational parks and improving the community.  Thor Erickson, a committee member with PARK(ing) Day Pittsburgh, said the designs for the spaces range from a simple extension of a business to a full-blown coffee shop, to an actual park.

“There’s been some very progressive folks that bring in sod and lay sod down in the parking spaces for a day, and it could be just setting up bike repair stands,” Erickson said. "They really vary in their diversity and it’s up to the individual people on how they want to interpret the space for the day.”

The international event began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio converted one metered parking spot into a "public park" for a day. Now citizens and artists collaborate to create new temporary public spaces in cities around the world.

Erickson said in the five years the project has been going on in Pittsburgh, there hasn’t been any backlash.

“Some people are really more interested and curious why people should choose to set up a mini park in the middle of a street,” Erickson said.  “We encourage all of our participants to inform the stores or businesses that they’re in front of to let them know what’s going on so we work with people and not against.”

Erickson said they’re not trying to make anyone mad, but trying to get the public to rethink how the streets are used.  He added each year about 30 parking spaces are used for the event, and if interested, people can still participate.