Parking Spaces Go to the Parks

A movement is taking over parking spaces around the city Friday in hopes of promoting a little more green in Philadelphia and beyond.

Dozens of architecture, design and engineering groups, as well as just some regular folks, will make parking spaces into parks as part of Park(ing) Day 2013.

Friday’s event will feature dozens of pop-up parks, according to organizers.

“It started with what I believe was probably around 20 parks and believe as of tomorrow… we’re around 50,” said organizer and Park(ing) Day participant Erike De Veyra. “That includes both Center City and outside neighborhoods.”

De Veyra’s boss, Pamela Zimmerman, of Zimmerman Studio architecture firm, brought the movement to the city six years ago. Every year the group helps coordinate the annual event. Park(ing) Day's success in past years helped forge the way for seasonal parklets in Manayunk, Chinatown and other neighborhoods.

De Veyra told NBC10 that the event is meant as a fun way for people to be creative while raising awareness of the need for more public space in cities.

“(It) is to really try to promote that we need more public spaces,” De Veyra said. “We need more parks -- how simple (that) a parking spot can be a public space.”

The event’s costs are incurred by each group setting up a one-off parklet, according to organizers.

One group getting ready to make a parking space its own for the day is event sponsor the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The PPA will set up its own parking park near its headquarters at 7th and Market Streets.

PPA spokesman Marty O’Rourke said that the parking authority “believes in the goals of Park(ing) Day” and are happy to be a sponsor of the event.

The PPA estimates the cost of lost revenue for parking spaces around the city is around $1,000 for the day. They also supplied organizers with temporary no stopping signs for participants to put up the night before.  
Park(ing) Day began in San Francisco in 2005 -- always on the third Friday of September -- and has quickly grown into an international movement with parking spot parks popping up from Germany to Norway to Malaysia to South Africa, as evidenced by the map on the international event’s website.

Here in Philly, the temporary green spaces will appear in neighborhoods from Germantown to Olney to Kingsessing to West Philadelphia to the East Passayunk neighborhood of South Philly but the most parks will show up in Center City Philadelphia. De Veyra says that certain rules do apply.

“There is a rule of one park per block so that there’s not a whole squall of them in one location,” she said.

Groups must also follow regular parking rules like no stopping hours posted on Center City thoroughfare’s during the morning rush.

“We tell all the parks that it’s by whatever parking regulations are on the block that they chose,” De Veyra said. “… If a car can park in there a park can be in there.”

Park(ing) Day also isn’t intended as an opportunity to put up a billboard. “You’re not there to promote your business,” De Veyra said.

De Veyra said it’s “a fun thing to do” not only for participants but for passers who have offered plenty of smiles in past years.

Groups began to sign up for this year’s event online back in May. DeVeyra’s own group of college friends known as the Patrike Design Workshop will be set up along Walnut Street west of Broad Street. She says her group’s goal is to bring their entire park with them on the SEPTA’s Market-Frankford El Friday morning.

Other groups might walk or drive their parks to their spot. What they actually put in the spot will vary. In the past groups have put up everything from sod to a bench to puzzle pieces to educational demonstrations to a storage container art show.

“It’s really whatever they want to make it of… it’s the interpretation of that group,” said De Veyra.

The parking spot parks should begin popping up around 8 a.m. and will remain until 5 p.m. depending on regulations that differ depending on the street.

Click here for a map of all city locations.

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