There is a phenomenon that has been gaining momentum over the past few years called pop-up parks. The idea is that a park is planned to “pop-up” in a temporary space for a limited amount of time. Typically found in urban areas, pop-up parks usually entail closing a section of the street to cars and buses, adding some outdoor furniture, play equipment, games, and, possibly, some turf, to create an oasis in the hard-top jungle.
The concept began in New York City when a couple of lanes of Broadway were borrowed for the use of lawn chairs and a “plaza” was born.
Since then, cities all over the world have joined the movement: San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, London, and Vancouver, to name a few.
Park(ing) Day was born as a grassroots movement to reclaim metered parking spaces, turn them into temporary mini-parks, and call attention to the need for green space in urban areas.
While some business owners may see this as a notion that is contrary to doing business, (What? Take parking spaces away?), the group has shown business owners, especially restaurateurs, that by taking a couple of the parking spaces, setting up a few tables in the space, and serving food, they can offer sought after outdoor dining. The notion of outdoor dining is appealing to many patrons and those restaurants which have no outdoor space available can benefit from just a couple of spaces. (Haven’t you ever gone specifically to one restaurant over another because one had outdoor dining while the other did not?) Locations can vary, allowing many businesses to benefit, not to mention the element of surprise this offers customers.
Pop-up parks can be established to change usage of a particular space. In order to slow traffic down outside the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, an area was absorbed from the street into what became known as The Porch. With outdoor furniture, planters and patio umbrellas, the space serves as an outdoor waiting room at the station on the one hand, but also serves the primary purpose of altering traffic habits.
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society created a beer garden from an unused green space in Philadelphia.
In such areas, where urban decay presents an eyesore, or even a danger, pop-up gardens can transform the space and lead to more permanent changes. Often, a community can pull together the resources to install a pop-up garden in a very short amount of time—far less than it would take to go through more mainstream planning and budget controls. Once an area has been transformed and it is determined that the space will be used, both local government and the public are more willing to move forward with a permanent plan.
Creating green areas in the urban landscape is important on so many levels. Not only do they encourage people to linger outside, but they add to the perceived value of a city, create ecological and health benefits to the population, encourage interaction between people, improve safety, and provide space for natural wildlife to survive. While most urban areas have stately and, perhaps historic parks which are central to the community, the idea of a scrappy little park that is looking for a place in neither history nor tour books has merit, as well. Any spot that brings people outside and allows them to interact in a world where personal interaction seems to be dwindling is a good thing. I love the idea and put my Outdoorlicious! stamp of approval on each and every one.