Asphalt for cars or a place for people?

One lucky parking spot in NoDa gets to become a park for eight hours this Friday.

From 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. volunteers will transform a space on North Davidson Street into a place for many people, instead of a place for one car. 

In doing so, they’ll make sure Charlotte once again joins an international list of cities observing PARK(ing) Day. On the annual, one-day event – the third Friday in September – cities around the world see how pavement can be converted into parklets.

PARK(ing) Day started in 2007 in San Francisco with a two-hour (as per the parking meter) mini-park. Since then, this act of what’s been called “tactical urbanism,” or “guerrilla urbanism,” has spread. By 2011 it featured more than 900 parks, in 162 cities.

Last year in Charlotte, visitors to the Friday night food trucks in South End found a spot of extra seating and shade, where they could let kids play with chalk and even talk to strangers. Most visitors agreed the rose bushes that had been set up to buffer the instant-mix park from Camden Road, along with wooden flooring and places to sit, held much more appeal than a bare pavement parking place. (To read more, see “Parking cars or PARK(ing) for people?” and “Hitting the streets, with parks.”)

It really isn’t difficult to transform a single-use 7-foot-by-20-foot patch of pavement into a place worth socializing in. You need a few key ingredients:

  • Something to buffer the space from the street.
  • Shade.
  • Places to sit.

Every year some folks are concerned that the park, by removing a parking space, will hurt businesses. Instead, just the opposite comes true. The new, temporary social space acts like a magnet, attracting people. And it’s people who shop at the businesses, not cars. 

The organizers’ goal is to borrow everything and throw away nothing. Please let them know if you would lend:

  • Chairs.
  • Porch umbrellas.
  • Potted plants.

Last year a friend tweeted about the event, and people he didn’t directly know offered large, potted plants for the day, a display of inspiring generosity.

If you have questions, theme ideas or would like to help, please contact Keihly Moore, keihly.moore@thelawrencegroup.com. And if you are worried about annoying the city’s transportation department, the Charlotte Department of Transportation has approved this Park(ing) Day plan.