Parklets-for-a-day to blossom in Tryon Street parking spots

In 2012, a miniature park was created for an evening next to Food Truck Friday in South End. Photo: Keihly Moore

What would happen if Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte sprouted a series of small parklets? You can find out on Friday.

Friday is international PARK(ing) Day, a do-it-yourself initiative taking place around the globe where people take places built for cars – parking places – and turn them into temporary parks. Although Charlotte urban designer Keihly Moore has spearheaded PARK(ing) Day parklets for the past two years (the 2013 parklet was in NoDa, and 2012 in South End), this year the event has grown to eight parklets in six parking spots with help from her co-worker Alex Borisenko.

The parklets will be operating from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Moore says. (Disclosure: Keihly Moore was a graduate student assistant at PlanCharlotte.org in 2012 and 2013.)

This year, instead of relying only on friends, colleagues and random volunteers for PARK(ing) Day, Moore and Borisenko have attracted support from multiple organizations: the Knight Foundation, Charlotte Center City Partners, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the UNC Charlotte School of Architecture.

Businesses offering support (including parklet design and construction) are: 505 Design, Barringer Construction, Boxman Studios, Design Resource Group, Gensler, LandDesign, The Lawrence Group, Metrolina Landscape, Neighboring Concepts and Perkins + Will and the U.S. Green Building Council. Many of the groups and businesses are collaborating on parklets.

The uptown parking places to be used will be:

  • On the Levine Avenue of the Arts.
  • On South Tryon Street in front of Latta Arcade, in front of Dean & Deluca and in front of Chima.
  • On North Tryon Street in front of Foundation For The Carolinas and in front of Discovery Place.

The whole idea, Moore said, is to show examples of “how people can use public space other than for storing an empty vehicle.”  Another facet, she said, is to avoid waste. “Frugal creativity is a good way to put it. Or resourceful creativity.”

Moore said the parklet she and her firm, The Lawrence Group, and others are putting together on North Tryon Street will use furniture made from discarded cardboard tubes she salvaged from a fabric store in South End. “Our goal was not to spend any money and not to throw anything away,” she said.

Why bother with parklets for a day?

The PARK(ing) Day phenomenon is one piece of a larger international trend toward what’s called tactical urbanism, or in some cases urban acupuncture.  The idea is to make inexpensive, creative changes to help people feel more comfortable mingling, walking, bicycling, or simply experiencing a place. It’s one of the strategies espoused by an urban design movement called “placemaking,” which means improving cities by improving the public places where people gather – or where they don’t gather, if the place is not attractive.

The idea that encouraging walking and bicycling can lead to improved city life is buttressed by research that says walking or bicycling to work is associated with higher psychological well-being than driving by car or taking public transportation. (See “Want to Be Happier? Try Walking Even Part of the Way to Work.”)

The parklets, of course, will be ephemeral. But after two years of here-today-gone-tomorrow parklets, Moore wanted to aim for something more permanent. She’s asking PARK(ing) Day participants to build Little Free Libraries, a way to put book-swap boxes into city neighborhoods. She said UNC Charlotte students are building four of the libraries. Learn more here  about Little Free Libraries, learn here how the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation Friends Council is using them.  And click here for some local news coverage of the movement.

Sites for the Tryon Street parklets